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This section of SustainabiliTank.info – REAL WORLD’S NEWS – will be carrying short notes with information not based on the daily press of the United States.

We will not attempt here to write lengthy articles, neither will we editorialize on why the information did not see light in the US.

If readers find other material relevant to sustainable development that was not published, please forward it to us at: Submissions@SustainabiliTank.info


 
Real World’s News:

 

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on August 25th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

From Laura Musikanski: The Happiness Alliance – Home of the Happiness Initiative and the GNH (Gross National Happiness) Index

Hi Friend of the Happiness Alliance,

Happiness is important to a new economic paradigm, the sustainability of our future and your happiness.

You are one of 61K people who took the Gross National Happiness Index and, in doing so, are the happiness movement. And the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) agrees – happiness, wellbeing & sustainability are important.

Who is the OECD? Here is a little history lesson. The OECD is the international organization that first started collecting Gross Domestic Product (GDP) numbers and comparing them for all countries. As such, they became a major force pushing GDP to the forefront for policy makers and our society. The backstory is that the superpowers got together after WWII and decided the best way to end future world wars was to bind their economies together (anybody remember Bretton Woods in history class?). The measure they decided to use for economic success was GDP. The term “globalization” had not been coined yet, and the full effects of exponential growth of production, pollution and GDP were still to come. About ten years ago the OECD, and many others, started seeing that wider measures of well-being were needed.

So what? October 13-15 in Guadalajara, Mexico is the OECD’s Fifth World Forum on statistics, knowledge and policy “transforming policy, changing lives.” We will be there (chat with us at our booth), as will be nef, Richard Layard, Jeffrey Stiglitz, Gus O’Donnell and so can you.

There is no fee to participate, but you must apply as a participant by August 31. Send an email to  wellbeing at oecd.org to apply as a participant.

There is more news from our project:

Our latest tool, Happiness for the Depressed, takes a real look at how to address depression. It is quickly becoming one of our more popular tools in part because it does not to give a bandaid to real problems.

And for the data and policy geeks, our second of a four essays that will constitute a white paper on the happiness movement has finally been published. The peer review process is no joke – but we are grateful to the Journal for Social Change for the input and editing. The essay is Measuring Happiness to Guide Public Policy Making. The end includes a grid of the areas included by different measures.

Community activists – check out the wonderful work Laura Hannant had been leading in the Creston, British Columbia region. Elected and appointed officials from the city, region and community boards came together with volunteers to measure and now manage the happiness and wellbeing of the community as part of a three year long project.

Academics and Researchers – check out the article covering the research Professor David Pendery did with four different universities in Taiwan. He is particularly concerned with the happiness and wellbeing of Chinese youth.

Laura Hannant and David Pendery both plan to be at the OECD fifth world forum and share a booth with the Happiness Alliance.

Last, please keep using the Gross National Happiness Index for your life and for your group. If you have not tried the new platform, check it out! You can create a group with one click. If you have, please let us know what you think and of any problems ( info at happycounts.org)

Thank you!
Laura Musikanski, other volunteers & the board of the Happiness Alliance.

P.S. We need donations to help us cover costs for posters, handouts and a banner for the OECD forum. If you can help, please donate here!

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on August 25th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

We react here to the New York Times Editorial of August 24, 2015 that seemingly wants us to believe that Putin and the Ayatollahs found religion when they heard that 250,000 Arabs were killed in Syria. Really – why should they care?

Let us suggest that “THE DEAL” has turned the interest of Iran to revive its International Banking if the Sanctions are removed – and that is the real driving force that eventually can bring Putin and the Ayatollahs to the table IN EXCHANGE FOR A SAUDI AND THE OTHER GULF STATES OIL EXPORTERS PROMISE TO REDUCE THEIR EXPORTS OF OIL.

YES – the US and the Europeans are driven by humanitarian concepts – the Russians and the Iranians think of the PRICE OF OIL that hit them hard in their economies. The US and the Europeans enjoyed the lowering of the price of oil – based on the high supply figures and a decreasing demand that resulted from GREEN ACTIVITIES – higher efficiency and alternate sources of energy.
But also these two developing energy topics can only benefit from a higher price for oil. So what the heck – let us help the Syrians and save whatever cultural monuments the Islamic State has not destroyed yet. We know that one way or another – the Christian population of Syria and Iraq is doomed and the Lebanese Maronites strive already decades in Brazil like the Iraqi Jews who spread all over the globe – from the Far East to the Far West. But let the enlightened world deal with the problem – and explain to the Saudis that time has come for them to listen to the global woes and do their part by selling less oil !!!

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on August 24th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)


A Department of Management Engineering at UN City in Copenhagen, Denmark is a UNEP Collaborating Centre Advisory on Energy, Climate, and Sustainable Development. They work with SE4All, WRI, and ICLEI – Local Government for Sustainability – as a global Energy Efficiency Accelerator Platform. They will conduct a webinar September 1, 2015.

An announcement:

Please join us on September 1 as the Global Energy Efficiency Accelerator platform hosts a webinar on the opportunities to use building efficiency and district energy in combination to create more sustainable cities.

This webinar of the SE4ALL Global Energy Efficiency Accelerator partnership is jointly hosted by World Resources Institute (WRI), United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and ICLEI-Local Governments for Sustainability. Additional information on the webinar is included below and in the attached document.

Please feel free to share information about this webinar with your colleagues and partners. The primary audience for the webinar is local governments, but it is open to a general audience.

Combining Building Efficiency and District Energy for More Sustainable Cities: A Sustainable Energy for All webinar

Date: Tuesday, 1 September 2015

Times: 10:00-11:30 CEST

Location: Video conference/webinar

Language: English
Registration: attendee.gotowebinar.com/rt/3055…

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UN City
Marmorvej 51, 2100 Copenhagen Ø, Denmark

DTU – Dept. of Management Engineering

Xiao Wang is DTU Coordinator for
Global Energy Efficiency Accelerator Platform

Email:  xwang at dtu.dk
Direct: +45 4533 5314

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Posted in Archives, Copenhagen COP15, Denmark, European Union, Finland, Future Events, Futurism, Green is Possible, Nairobi, Obama Styling, Paris, Real World's News, Scandinavia, Vienna

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on August 20th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)


Celebrating International Youth Day at UN Headquarters – something that has become a yearly UN Headquarters event that is very different from the stiff and soul-less gatherings of the diplomats.

Taking place in the ECOSOC Chamber at UN Headquarters from 10 am to 1 pm on 12 August, the IYD event was organized by the Inter-agency Network on Youth Development and co-sponsored by the Permanent Mission of Portugal and the Permanent Mission of the Dominican Republic.

It was intended to bring together young people, youth organizations, Member State representatives, civil society, and UN entities to discuss the issue of youth civic engagement – in particular looking at new and emerging issues – and approaches to social and political engagement in different parts of the world. OH YES _ THIS IS THE NORMAL JARGON SPEECH OF THE UN _ BUT THIS TIME SOME OF THE ORGANIZERS SHOWED A LOT OF COURAGE AND TOOK UPON THEMSELVES UNHEARD FREEDOMS.

Following opening remarks by the Secretary-General and high-level representatives, the event called for highlight of both – traditional and emerging forms of civic engagement – in the form of panel discussions. The first panel was about bringing new insights into the participation of young people in local and national political process and a second panel to discuss the power of youth as global citizens.

The UN wanted the event also to highlight the upcoming 2015 World Youth Report, which will be focusing on the issue of economic, political and social participation of youth, responding to the increased concern and policy focus placed on the issue in recent years. In providing such an analysis, a strong link to youth engagement in the shaping and future implementation of the sustainable development goals (SDGs) at both the national and global levels will be highlighted.

Knowing that the people concerned will have no access to the UN, the announcement also included: “If you do not hold a UN grounds pass and wish to join the event, please RSVP to UN DESA.”

Call for worldwide commemoration:
Running until August 12, the Inter-agency Network on Youth Development #YouthDay campaign was still encouraging young people to organize events to celebrate International Youth Day.

- See more at: www.sustainabilitank.info/2015/08…

Also, and in our opinion the truly main event of the August 12th day at the UN, was the afternoon session: An intercultural and interfaith dialogue event in celebration of International Youth Day 2015 at the United Nations Headquarters in New York City.

The theme of the event was “The Power of Youth to Build Peace Through Intercultural Dialogue.”

The event was organized by Dr. Salwa (Sally) Kader the head of USFMEP (The US Federation for Middle East Peace) – “United Federation for Peace and Development.” And for this event she brought in as main speaker Imam Qazi Qayyoom who is originally from Bangladesh but is Imam of a mosque in Lebanon. He is a Moderate-Liberal Sunni Sufi and is ready to speak out against terrorism – that is any form of Islamic terrorism. This is an unheard position at the UN.

Imam Qazi Qayyoom came to the US for the first time in 1994 and found employment in New York founding a Community in Jackson Heights. He told us that he became a victim of the 9/11 event in 2001 when his naturalization papers were lost in the office of his lawyer – at the former World Trade Center. He started to study Islamic terrorism and Jihad that year. In 2005 he decided to stand up and condemn this and created the Jackson Heights Muhammadi Center. See www.ClarionProject.org and since does not accept the Islamists misleading the faith. He would rather work with inter-faith networks. He believes in Peace as the human destiny.
This year he celebrates 10 years since the founding of his Center. He talks to young people – his hope.

He knows that on both sides of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict there are old-timers that are interested in continuing the conflict – it is the same on the India-Pakistan divide. His Center has problems with his own people that have difficulty with realizing what creates conflict.

Imam Qazi Qayyoom was followed by Ambassador Garxia of El Salvador who runs the Maya Foundation in Los Angeles and looks at improving Communities’ life and Peace through Ecosystems and better agriculture for the peoples’ lives.

All humanity is one he said – and to find peace one must make first peace with himself. If you want to change the planet – the time is now – he said. 70% of the people in Africa are youth – 75% in the Least Developed countries and this is a tremendous potential that can turn into a tremendous danger if we do not act sensibly.

After the Ambassador followed young people representing various religions. For example – Aripha born in Princeton NJ – now at NYU – speaking for Hinduism; Andrew a Jew who leads some 150,000 students world-wide in a campaign to protect the environment;Juan Pacheco a Menonite from Colombia leading to constructive dialogue for peace; a Korean; a Christian Phillipino from Mindanao Province; a Greek Orthodox from Syria – and so on.

Let me repeat once more – a most unusual gathering at the UN – but what do you know – completely under reported by the UN !!!

Even our beloved IISD Reporting Sevices mentioned only what the UNSG Ban Ki-moon said that day and did not touch the real sustance that went on in the afternoon meting on youth and Peace. That is why the UN indeed painted itself in a most irrelevant corner seemingly catering only to self serving tourists that come to gatherings on which they have no handle and know that they will not produce true results.

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Also part of this International Youth Day is: GYMC15.

The Global Challenges Youth Music Contest (GYMC) is an online music video competition for young people organized by International Association for the Advancement of Innovative Approaches (IAAI), a Civil Society Organization based in Klagenfurt/Austria in cooperation with UNESCO Management of Social Transformation (MOST) programme, UNFCCC Climate Secretariat, the WorldWeWant2015 platform and other partners.

The overall objective of the Global Challenges Youth Music Contest is to use the power of music to promote the understanding of the importance of global challenges – like e.g. climate change – for every global citizen and to engage young people in activities that contribute to global and local public good in the context of goals and programs of United Nations system.

With the 2015 edition of Global Challenges Youth Music Contest (#GYMC15) the organizers aim to:
Communicate the topics of the World Climate Conference UNFCCC COP21 which will be held in Paris in December 2015 to young people through peer communication (= “informal global citizenship education”);
Create and spread positive messages about youth led climate action;
Promote low-carbon lifestyles and ‚think global – act local‘ values and action;
Show to policymakers that young people demand strong global cooperation and bold action on climate change.

The 2015 Global Challenges Youth Music Contest consists of 2 main parts:
the online competition which will identify 3 finalists and
the GYMC climate change edutainment TV Show (which will be held during COP21 at UNESCO Headquarters and will be globally broadcasted in cooperation with strong media partners) in which the GYMC15 overall winner will be identified through live on-site and online voting.

GYMC15 has been certified by the authorities of COP21 host country France as a ‘COP21 certified project’ which is authorised to use the official COP21 logo.

GYMC15 upload phase starts on International Youth Day 2015 which has the theme “Youth Civic Engagement” – a topic that is very close to the goals of GYMC15.

“More efforts are needed to raise awareness about the importance of youth civic engagement and its benefits to the individual and to society, including for sustainable development as well as resilience and wellbeing. The International Youth Day 2015 campaign aims at promoting civic engagement and participation of youth in politics and public life, so that young people can be empowered and bring a full contribution to society, development and peace. You can be part of these efforts!” undesadspd.org/Youth/Internationa…

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on August 20th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

Mayors of cities like London, Vienna, Istanbul, are usually the second most important elected official in their countries. Why is this not the case with New York City? What is different here? I feel like having a proposed answer:

In New York City special interests are stronger then in above named cities. The reason for my writing this posting is my anger at what I see in New York City as an exaggerated importance allowed to the Yellow Cabs Owners’ Associations that seem to have a historical hold on the way the city develops public transportation. This is not just the problem of the present Mayor – Mr. Bill De Blasio, but we also saw this during the reign of his predecessor Mr. Michael Bloomberg – the Republican tycoon. Then we were not astonished by this fact.

But Mr. De Blasio is the Democrat elected for his presumably progressive ideas. Indeed – he runs all over the globe talking about the environment and climate change – just like Mr. Bloomberg did. He helped recently lead the world’s Mayors to the Vatican in order to line up behind Pope Francis to help save the Paris 2015 UNFCCC meeting. But what does he do here at home?

I am targeting my attention to the Public transportation in NYC – specifically the bus service of the MTA that cuts into the business of the yellow cabs – and their owners had the upper hand. So, New York City was probably the only large city in the world without a decent public link to its airports.

Mayor Bloomberg already started to undo the Manhattan Transit buses under the guise of improving it. The case in point is the line M15 and the introduction of the SELECT transportation to replace the EXPRESS bus stops. With three Select runs for each regular run, and the elimination of some connections to the crosstown lines – like at East 72nd street – the riders started switching to yellow cabs right back six-seven years ago. This was a boon to the yellow cabs that started suffering from the competition from the Green cabs that came into existence when sectors of the public were pointing fingers at the “Yellows” refusing to go to outer boroughs under the guise (clearly against the law) that it was dangerous.

Under De Blasio things got worse. So often you see buses skipping a scheduled departure and taking off instead with a “NOT IN SERVICE” sign going from end-to-end without passengers and leaving those in need of that transportation to turn to cabs.

So, this mayor increased the spewing of fumes and greenhouse gasses by having useless bus trips and unneeded single passenger cab runs – something only the cab owners could love.

I write this today after having observed at Third Avenue and East 45th Street how the M101 Express passed by without stopping and out of the two lines M102 and M103 both scheduled to stop there at 4:29 PM (? in itself questionable) only the M103 stopped, while the other bus passed empty – NOT IN SERVICE.

Further – the public likes the recent introduction of the new UBER service but the mayor entered in a fight to disallow this service. I never understood his position beyond – again – it would hurt existing yellow cab owners. Is he indeed wedded to them?

The recent pols show the Mayor may have a hard time getting reelected. We hope some truly progressive Democrat steps forward to challenge him.

=============================================================

THE UPDATE of August 20, 2015 to our original article of August 8, 2015:


Mr. De Blasio seems to have found a new outlet for his energies – the nearly naked women-beggars of Times Square. But the “Job 1″ of his, according to the Wednesday August 19, 2015 editorial of amNewYork, is “MAKE THE TRAINS RUN ON TIME.” That is the subject we hammered on in our original paper as well.

Thinking of the mayhem that lies ahead of us in New York during the second half of this September month – this because New York is in effect the Capital of the World and most Heads of State will be flocking here – De Blasio simply does not feel like up to this situation. Sorry we must keep hammering on this.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on August 18th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

BBC – Science & Environment

Islamic call on rich countries to end fossil fuel use.

By Matt McGrath Environment correspondent, BBC News

But critics have argued that the Declaration is not truly representative of Islam with some of the biggest Islamic nations not taking an active part in supporting the call.

“Are all Islamic countries represented? I’d say no to that – that’s the honest answer,” said Fazlun Khalid. “There is a huge amount of lethargy – we are not set up like other churches, there is no Islamic pope!

“The Declaration is like a trigger – to say, wake up wherever you are, wake up and take care of the Earth.”

The Declaration comes in the wake of Pope Francis’s encyclical on the environment and climate change, which was seen as a significant call for Catholics to engage on the issue of global warming.

Catholic leaders have praised the Islamic Declaration as a positive step.

“It is with great joy and in a spirit of solidarity that I express to you the promise of the Catholic Church to pray for the success of your initiative and her desire to work with you in the future to care for our common home and thus to glorify the God who created us,” said Cardinal Peter Turkson, who helped the Pope draft his encyclical.

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The Islamic Climate Declaration says that the world’s 1.6bn Muslims have a religious duty to fight climate change.

It urges politicians to agree a new treaty to limit global warming to 2C, “or preferably 1.5 degrees.”

The Declaration asks Muslims, in the words of the Koran, “not to strut arrogantly on the Earth”.

The Declaration is like a trigger – to say, wake up wherever you are, wake up and take care of the Earth
Fazlun Khalid, Islamic Foundation for Ecology and Environmental Science

Drafted at an international symposium in Istanbul, the Declaration calls for “all people, leaders and businesses …to commit to 100% renewable energy”.

It also argues for increased financial support for communities vulnerable to climate change.

The main focus though is on “well-off nations and oil-producing states,” who are urged to lead the way in phasing out greenhouse gases, no later than the middle of this century.

The Declaration calls on the rich countries, to recognise their “moral obligation to reduce consumption so that the poor may benefit from what is left of the Earth’s non-renewable resources”.

“People need to be told and politicians need to stop misleading their people, in telling them they can go on increasing their standards of living for ever and ever and ever,” Fazlun Khalid, a long time Islamic environmentalist involved in drawing up the Declaration, told BBC News.

“Someone should be articulating this because it’s an impossibility, they can’t do it – And this applies not just to Muslim countries.”

The call has been supported by religious leaders including the Grand Muftis of Uganda and Lebanon, the president of Indonesia’s major body of religious scholars as well as environmental groups and government officials from Morocco and Turkey.

But critics have argued that the Declaration is not truly representative of Islam with some of the biggest Islamic nations not taking an active part in supporting the call.

“Are all Islamic countries represented? I’d say no to that – that’s the honest answer,” said Fazlun Khalid. “There is a huge amount of lethargy – we are not set up like other churches, there is no Islamic pope!

“The Declaration is like a trigger – to say, wake up wherever you are, wake up and take care of the Earth.”

The Declaration comes in the wake of Pope Francis’s encyclical on the environment and climate change, which was seen as a significant call for Catholics to engage on the issue of global warming.

Catholic leaders have praised the Islamic Declaration as a positive step.

“It is with great joy and in a spirit of solidarity that I express to you the promise of the Catholic Church to pray for the success of your initiative and her desire to work with you in the future to care for our common home and thus to glorify the God who created us,” said Cardinal Peter Turkson, who helped the Pope draft his encyclical.

The authors of the Declaration say that it will be available in mosques and madrassas around the world.

They hope that it will influence political leaders in Muslim countries to become more fully involved in global attempts to deliver a new treaty on climate change, expected to be signed in Paris in December.

While around 50 countries have so far posted their plans for curbing climate change ahead of the meeting in Paris, very few Muslim countries have been among them.

I asked Fazlun Khalid if religious divisions between Muslims were a bigger issue at present than climate change.

“In spite of their differences we want Muslims to wake up and think and realise that this is a problem that affects every inch of this planet, in spite of their differences, under their feet something is happening, a deep plate shift in the Earth’s crust,” he said.

“In spite of our differences we have to take this on, as the major issue affecting the whole of the human world.”

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on August 18th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

A Year Ago – September 5, 2014 – Just before the 2014 UN General Assembly – Assaad W. Razzouk wrote in the ECOLOGIST: “We Can Win On Climate Change – But Without the UN.”

After the UNGA and immediately after COP20 of the UNFCCC – he wrote:
“The UN climate talks just failed – now for the real battle.”

Assaad W. Razzouk, 15th December 2014 – in THE ECOLOGIST “COP20 has just laid the foundations for a non-agreement in Paris in 2015, writes Assaad Razzouk – thanks to the pernicious influence of fossil fuels, poisoning debate and subverting serious climate action. Now there’s only one earthly power big enough to fight back.”

In fact, possibly worse than nothing happened. Instead of being on track to sign, in December 2015 in Paris, a binding agreement to cut harmful emissions backed by all nations, we are forcefully sliding towards an agreement for each nation to do what it wants, including nothing.

There is a new acronym at the UN jargon university for this: ‘Intended Nationally Determined Contributions’, or INDCs. It’s a code-word for everyone to do what they please, in two steps.

First, key governments worldwide will maybe (or maybe not) outline, by March 2015, what actions (i.e., INDCs) they intend to take under a global agreement.
Second, the INDCs are intended to be added up into an agreement in Paris and compared against what we need to do to limit temperature increases to 2 degrees, the accepted climate change speed limit.

But because these INDCs amount to nothing, we already know that any agreement in Paris will also amount to nothing. INDCs won’t have binding (legal) consequences, aren’t subject to review and don’t come with transparent, strong monitoring obligations.

Two consequences are clear, as they have been for some time.

First, emissions will continue to rise as the rot from a failed UN process spreads to every corner of the world.
Second, as I argued previously, instead of wasting resources on a failed UN process, we should target the 90 companies which are responsible for two-thirds of the harmful emissions generated since the industrial age began. Eighty percent of their reserves need to be locked away underground to avoid a catastrophe.

This tiny number of large companies, lobbying to prevent action on climate change, are at the heart of our current carbon-intensive model. They know that their business model is not under threat from the UN climate talks.
 www.theecologist.org/blogs_and_co…

Now we are facing the UNGA of 2015 and looking forward to COP21 in Paris and expecting the INDCs (‘Intended Nationally Determined Contributions’) as the outcome – and the ECOLOGIST just released another article from the Singapore based Sindicatum Company: “Why INDCs Can Be A Firm Foundation To A Climate Deal” by Gareth Brydon Phillips.
August 18, 2015.
 www.sindicatum.com/why-indcs-can-…

Is this simply because of the necessity to live with what we can get?
Obviously, we think beyond that. Our www.SustaiabiliTank.info wrote many times that it expects nothing beyond publicity from what goes on at the UN. It is not just those international oil companies Sindicatum is targeting – but also the oil exporting countries that infiltrated the UN at all levels that will do everything they can do in order to derail the oil consumers from organizing themselves as a consortium as well. The interest of the consumers started from defending themselves from the exploitation of a few royal houses gesticulating as if they had Nations behind them, and then the issues of environment and climate change came about and clearly justified our need to decrease not just the dependence on oil – but the actual use of fossil carbon fuels – this in order to decrease emissions of greenhouse gasses including CO2.

In this respect the codex of INDCs is the best one can expect from the UN, and if we do it right it can lead us to the golden land of reliance on renewable energy to replace the reliance on fossil fuels. The countries that commercialize the RE&EN (Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency) technologies can rule the global economy – and – yes – DECENTRALIZATION and energy supplied locally were it is needed – can become the guideline.

We use this present posting not just as a favor to Sindicatum and the ECOLOGIST, but in effect as a start of our campaign to further the goals of Paris 2015 as we are optimists – in spite of the UN bureaucracy that was loaded by the oil counties – and oil interests – and believe the future is ours and not theirs. In this vein we also posted the call to arms of 350.org

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We proceed now to re-post the September 2014 article in the ECOLOGIST:


We can win on climate change – but without the UN

Assaad W. Razzouk, September 5, 2014 in the Ecologist:
 www.theecologist.org/blogs_and_co…

Prospects for a global climate deal under the UN are receding fast, writes Assaad Razzouk, as the Green Climate Fund is short-changed by donor nations. But there’s still plenty to hope for with a private sector that’s stepping up to the mark, and fast-growing decentralised climate action.

There is no longer any viable solution likely to emerge from the UN climate talks. But there is still much to hope for in a world of decentralised climate action.

The climate community has been in a beehive of activity all summer as government officials, corporate leaders and climate activists prepare to congregate in New York City on 23rd September for a UN ‘Climate Summit’ convened by Secretary General Ban ki-Moon.

But recent moves by the BRICS countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) have decisively undermined the entire edifice of UN climate talks – likely for the better given the appalling track record of climate action of the UN.

Since their inception in 1980, UN climate talks have been built on the premise that the developed world, responsible for most of the pollution since industrialization, will fund a global clean-up of the planet, partly directly and partly via institutions where they control the Board, such as the World Bank Group.

After all that’s what rich developed countries, periodically feeling guilty, have promised at repeated climate talk venues.

The promised money never arrived

Over the past five years, the Green Climate Fund (or GCF) has been presented as the key vehicle via which $100 billion of funding per year will be diverted from rich to developing countries to help the latter mitigate emissions and adapt to climate change.

However, negotiations for a comprehensive climate deal have led nowhere as guilt is invariably replaced by political and financial reality, especially after the 2008 financial crisis.

For some 25 years now, dozens of poor developing countries have been sitting and waiting for the promised cash – but it hasn’t come.

In the meantime, advanced developed economies like the BRICS countries have become cash rich and grown increasingly tired of the control exercised by developed countries on almost all multi-lateral and bi-lateral financial institutions – including the IMF, the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank and a multitude of Western bilateral development banks.

Some, like China, have grudgingly recognized that climate action promotes prosperity and stability: In part, because of a rapidly developing popular environmental consciousness in response to abject air and water pollution and chemical contamination; and also because China feels that clean green technology is an area where it can exercise strategic leadership in Asia and beyond.

BRICS mobilise a potential $300bn for climate action

As a result of the above factors, on 15 July, the BRICS countries launched, with an acute emphasis on sustainable development, the ‘New Development Bank’ or NDB with capital of US$100 billion.

They did not stop there and also announced the signing of a Treaty for the establishment of the BRICS Contingent Reserve Arrangement (CRA) with an initial size of $100 billion. So that’s $200 billion committed by five countries, in part, to mobilise resources for sustainable development in emerging economies.

Furthermore, China’s diplomatic corps has been doing the rounds in Asia in July and August, successfully mobilising support for another brand new $100 billion international institution, the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB).

Together, the NDB, the CRA and the AIIB have mobilised $300 billion of cash completely outside the current UN climate construct. This substantial funding creates the potential of a new era for climate action.

Now that China and India have put their hand in their pockets to fund their own – alternative – institutions, expect lots of recriminations and blame-shifting at forthcoming UN climate talks.

But don’t expect decisive, or even constructive, outcomes: A comprehensive climate change deal is not going to happen, because the industrialised countries won’t come up with the money to fund it.


The ‘Green Climate Fund’ will never be properly capitalised

It was already clear at the UN climate talks that rich countries won’t sign up to a deal unless substantial capital – and commitments – come also from China, India, oil-rich countries and other advanced developing countries. These calculations have now been overtaken by facts on the ground.

The Green Climate Fund won’t be properly capitalised because the BRICS have now given up their attempts to take a leading role in the governance of the GCF and are writing $300 billion worth of cheques to alternative institutions.

By implication, they dismantled a key foundation of the UN climate talks. There is no way the US and the EU will write massive cheques for the GCF without some matching funding from the probable recipients of most of those funds, India and China.

Where does all this leave climate action? We must plan on the basis that UN climate talks won’t get us anywhere and that we have entered a new era of decentralised climate action.

Climate failure is built into the World Bank’s DNA

Clustered around the US and Europe, the World Bank Group, the IMF, regional multilaterals such as the Asian Development Bank and a mini-size Green Climate Fund will continue to be broadly ineffective in fighting climate change, a mission not embedded in their DNA.

For example, the World Bank still can’t get the funding of coal-fired power plants out of its system and the IMF is blithely fighting fuel subsidies by driving countries such as Pakistan, Bangladesh and Egypt to build more coal-fired power plants which the world’s health can’t afford.

Clustered around China, new BRICS institutions will focus on infrastructure and sustainable development with a core focus on energy (50% of infrastructure spending). Energy won’t spread to the 700 million Indians with little or no access to electricity unless it’s distributed clean energy.

A solar revolution is under way in India, China, parts of South East Asia and in Africa. Expect China-backed institutions to have no choice (in no small part because of domestic pressure from their own citizens) but to back clean energy with significant dollars.

Setting carbon prices to spur private sector action

Stuck between these two clusters is the all-important but often neglected private sector – currently responsible for 62% of climate finance flows, 70% of global GDP and 70% of employment.

Private sector action remains, by far, our best hope – but to release its potential it needs an effective carbon price to allocate scarce resources away from the fossil fuel economy, and stimulate decisive global climate action.

Companies that want to get on with the job should campaign vigorously for a carbon price, or carbon prices, to support them. But the good news is, that carbon prices are already emerging across much of the world thanks to national and regional carbon markets and carbon taxes.

Domestic carbon markets are spreading, and are likely by 2015 to cover some 4 billion people: In addition to existing markets for emissions in Europe, national and regional carbon markets are springing up in Latin America (Chile, Mexico, large economic regions in Brazil); Asia (Kazakhstan, South Korea, Vietnam, New Zealand); and North America (Quebec, Ontario, Manitoba, British Columbia, California and the Northeast US).

Carbon taxes are also spreading and are in place now in Europe (Denmark, Finland, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden and Switzerland), Asia (India, Japan and New Zealand) and Latin America (Costa Rica and Rio de Janeiro). China will have a national carbon tax in place after 2015 as well as a carbon market from 2016.


There is hope – just not from the UN climate process

But as the European emissions trading system (EU-ETS) has spectacularly shown, a price on carbon is not always effective – and indeed can be destructive and line the pockets of polluters with billions in windfall profits, at the expense of the public.

To avoid this regulators avoid repeating the mistakes of the EU-ETS – including over-allocation of permits and large-scale ‘grandfathering’ to existing polluters – and muster the courage to swat down fossil fuel lobbies to deliver a strong and rising price on pollution.

There is no longer any viable solution likely to emerge from the UN climate talks. But there is still much to hope for in a world of decentralised climate action.

The new BRICS mechanisms will, with their $300 billion in hand, have an important role to play in stimulating and supporting moves to a renewable energy future.

But the main contribution will come from the private sector which alone can deliver the technologies, innovation and investment needed to sustain a stable, equable global climate.

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Assaad Razzouk is the CEO and co-founder of Sindicatum Sustainable Resources, a world leading clean energy company based in Singapore.

He is a leading expert in global carbon markets and the policy structures that underpin them, such as the UN’s Clean Development Mechanism and the EU Emissions Trading Scheme. Assaad is passionate about creating an efficient framework for global sustainable investment and global multilateral approaches to mitigating the effect of climate change.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on August 17th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)


IPCC chair election: 5 candidates, 8 weeks to go

By Megan Darby of ” title=”http://www.rtcc.org” target=”_blank”>www.rtcc.org/2015/08/14/ipcc-chai…

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SustainabiliTank supports Naki (Nebosja Nakicenovic) because of his years long personal involvement in energy matters and his understanding of the importance of energy in the economy, on the environment and in development matters. Further, we think his Vienna base at the former East-West IIASA institution – is a tremendous plus – and as well – practically all UN and international energy active centers are based in Vienna be it UN affiliates like IAEA and OPEC and then the new SE4All which ought to be a major locus for post-Paris-2015.

Also, we think it as a plus, the fact that Naki was not part of the outgoing IPCC management – we found years ago that the influence of oil interests reached into the minds and actions of that outgoing management.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on August 10th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)


The Point of No Return: Climate Change Nightmares Are Already Here

By Eric Holthaus, Rolling Stone

09 August 15

The worst predicted impacts of climate change are starting to happen — and much faster than climate scientists expected

istorians may look to 2015 as the year when shit really started hitting the fan. Some snapshots: In just the past few months, record-setting heat waves in Pakistan and India each killed more than 1,000 people. In Washington state’s Olympic National Park, the rainforest caught fire for the first time in living memory. London reached 98 degrees Fahrenheit during the hottest July day ever recorded in the U.K.; The Guardian briefly had to pause its live blog of the heat wave because its computer servers overheated. In California, suffering from its worst drought in a millennium, a 50-acre brush fire swelled seventyfold in a matter of hours, jumping across the I-15 freeway during rush-hour traffic. Then, a few days later, the region was pounded by intense, virtually unheard-of summer rains. Puerto Rico is under its strictest water rationing in history as a monster El Niño forms in the tropical Pacific Ocean, shifting weather patterns worldwide.

On July 20th, James Hansen, the former NASA climatologist who brought climate change to the public’s attention in the summer of 1988, issued a bombshell: He and a team of climate scientists had identified a newly important feedback mechanism off the coast of Antarctica that suggests mean sea levels could rise 10 times faster than previously predicted: 10 feet by 2065. The authors included this chilling warning: If emissions aren’t cut, “We conclude that multi-meter sea-level rise would become practically unavoidable. Social disruption and economic consequences of such large sea-level rise could be devastating. It is not difficult to imagine that conflicts arising from forced migrations and economic collapse might make the planet ungovernable, threatening the fabric of civilization.”

Eric Rignot, a climate scientist at NASA and the University of California-Irvine and a co-author on Hansen’s study, said their new research doesn’t necessarily change the worst-case scenario on sea-level rise, it just makes it much more pressing to think about and discuss, especially among world leaders. In particular, says Rignot, the new research shows a two-degree Celsius rise in global temperature — the previously agreed upon “safe” level of climate change — “would be a catastrophe for sea-level rise.”

Hansen’s new study also shows how complicated and unpredictable climate change can be. Even as global ocean temperatures rise to their highest levels in recorded history, some parts of the ocean, near where ice is melting exceptionally fast, are actually cooling, slowing ocean circulation currents and sending weather patterns into a frenzy. Sure enough, a persistently cold patch of ocean is starting to show up just south of Greenland, exactly where previous experimental predictions of a sudden surge of freshwater from melting ice expected it to be. Michael Mann, another prominent climate scientist, recently said of the unexpectedly sudden Atlantic slowdown, “This is yet another example of where observations suggest that climate model predictions may be too conservative when it comes to the pace at which certain aspects of climate change are proceeding.”

Since storm systems and jet streams in the United States and Europe partially draw their energy from the difference in ocean temperatures, the implication of one patch of ocean cooling while the rest of the ocean warms is profound. Storms will get stronger, and sea-level rise will accelerate. Scientists like Hansen only expect extreme weather to get worse in the years to come, though Mann said it was still “unclear” whether recent severe winters on the East Coast are connected to the phenomenon.

And yet, these aren’t even the most disturbing changes happening to the Earth’s biosphere that climate scientists are discovering this year. For that, you have to look not at the rising sea levels but to what is actually happening within the oceans themselves.

Water temperatures this year in the North Pacific have never been this high for this long over such a large area — and it is already having a profound effect on marine life.

Eighty-year-old Roger Thomas runs whale-watching trips out of San Francisco. On an excursion earlier this year, Thomas spotted 25 humpbacks and three blue whales. During a survey on July 4th, federal officials spotted 115 whales in a single hour near the Farallon Islands — enough to issue a boating warning. Humpbacks are occasionally seen offshore in California, but rarely so close to the coast or in such numbers. Why are they coming so close to shore? Exceptionally warm water has concentrated the krill and anchovies they feed on into a narrow band of relatively cool coastal water. The whales are having a heyday. “It’s unbelievable,” Thomas told a local paper. “Whales are all over
the place.”

Last fall, in northern Alaska, in the same part of the Arctic where Shell is planning to drill for oil, federal scientists discovered 35,000 walruses congregating on a single beach. It was the largest-ever documented “haul out” of walruses, and a sign that sea ice, their favored habitat, is becoming harder and harder to find.

Marine life is moving north, adapting in real time to the warming ocean. Great white sharks have been sighted breeding near Monterey Bay, California, the farthest north that’s ever been known to occur. A blue marlin was caught last summer near Catalina Island — 1,000 miles north of its typical range. Across California, there have been sightings of non-native animals moving north, such as Mexican red crabs.

No species may be as uniquely endangered as the one most associated with the Pacific Northwest, the salmon. Every two weeks, Bill Peterson, an oceanographer and senior scientist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Northwest Fisheries Science Center in Oregon, takes to the sea to collect data he uses to forecast the return of salmon. What he’s been seeing this year is deeply troubling.

Salmon are crucial to their coastal ecosystem like perhaps few other species on the planet. A significant portion of the nitrogen in West Coast forests has been traced back to salmon, which can travel hundreds of miles upstream to lay their eggs. The largest trees on Earth simply wouldn’t exist without salmon.

But their situation is precarious. This year, officials in California are bringing salmon downstream in convoys of trucks, because river levels are too low and the temperatures too warm for them to have a reasonable chance of surviving. One species, the winter-run Chinook salmon, is at a particularly increased risk of decline in the next few years, should the warm water persist offshore.

“You talk to fishermen, and they all say: ‘We’ve never seen anything like this before,’?” says Peterson. “So when you have no experience with something like this, it gets like, ‘What the hell’s going on?’?”

Atmospheric scientists increasingly believe that the exceptionally warm waters over the past months are the early indications of a phase shift in the Pacific Decadal Oscillation, a cyclical warming of the North Pacific that happens a few times each century. Positive phases of the PDO have been known to last for 15 to 20 years, during which global warming can increase at double the rate as during negative phases of the PDO. It also makes big El Niños, like this year’s, more likely. The nature of PDO phase shifts is unpredictable — climate scientists simply haven’t yet figured out precisely what’s behind them and why they happen when they do. It’s not a permanent change — the ocean’s temperature will likely drop from these record highs, at least temporarily, some time over the next few years — but the impact on marine species will be lasting, and scientists have pointed to the PDO as a global-warming preview.

“The climate [change] models predict this gentle, slow increase in temperature,” says Peterson, “but the main problem we’ve had for the last few years is the variability is so high. As scientists, we can’t keep up with it, and neither can the animals.” Peterson likens it to a boxer getting pummeled round after round: “At some point, you knock them down, and the fight is over.”

Attendant with this weird wildlife behavior is a stunning drop in the number of plankton — the basis of the ocean’s food chain. In July, another major study concluded that acidifying oceans are likely to have a “quite traumatic” impact on plankton diversity, with some species dying out while others flourish. As the oceans absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, it’s converted into carbonic acid — and the pH of seawater declines. According to lead author Stephanie Dutkiewicz of MIT, that trend means “the whole food chain is going to be different.”

The Hansen study may have gotten more attention, but the Dutkiewicz study, and others like it, could have even more dire implications for our future. The rapid changes Dutkiewicz and her colleagues are observing have shocked some of their fellow scientists into thinking that yes, actually, we’re heading toward the worst-case scenario. Unlike a prediction of massive sea-level rise just decades away, the warming and acidifying oceans represent a problem that seems to have kick-started a mass extinction on the same time scale.

Jacquelyn Gill is a paleoecologist at the University of Maine. She knows a lot about extinction, and her work is more relevant than ever. Essentially, she’s trying to save the species that are alive right now by learning more about what killed off the ones that aren’t. The ancient data she studies shows “really compelling evidence that there can be events of abrupt climate change that can happen well within human life spans. We’re talking less than a decade.”

For the past year or two, a persistent change in winds over the North Pacific has given rise to what meteorologists and oceanographers are calling “the blob” — a highly anomalous patch of warm water between Hawaii, Alaska and Baja California that’s thrown the marine ecosystem into a tailspin. Amid warmer temperatures, plankton numbers have plummeted, and the myriad species that depend on them have migrated or seen their own numbers dwindle.

Significant northward surges of warm water have happened before, even frequently. El Niño, for example, does this on a predictable basis. But what’s happening this year appears to be something new. Some climate scientists think that the wind shift is linked to the rapid decline in Arctic sea ice over the past few years, which separate research has shown makes weather patterns more likely to get stuck.

A similar shift in the behavior of the jet stream has also contributed to the California drought and severe polar vortex winters in the Northeast over the past two years. An amplified jet-stream pattern has produced an unusual doldrum off the West Coast that’s persisted for most of the past 18 months. Daniel Swain, a Stanford University meteorologist, has called it the “Ridiculously Resilient Ridge” — weather patterns just aren’t supposed to last this long.

What’s increasingly uncontroversial among scientists is that in many ecosystems, the impacts of the current off-the-charts temperatures in the North Pacific will linger for years, or longer. The largest ocean on Earth, the Pacific is exhibiting cyclical variability to greater extremes than other ocean basins. While the North Pacific is currently the most dramatic area of change in the world’s oceans, it’s not alone: Globally, 2014 was a record-setting year for ocean temperatures, and 2015 is on pace to beat it soundly, boosted by the El Niño in the Pacific. Six percent of the world’s reefs could disappear before the end of the decade, perhaps permanently, thanks to warming waters.

Since warmer oceans expand in volume, it’s also leading to a surge in sea-level rise. One recent study showed a slowdown in Atlantic Ocean currents, perhaps linked to glacial melt from Greenland, that caused a four-inch rise in sea levels along the Northeast coast in just two years, from 2009 to 2010. To be sure, it seems like this sudden and unpredicted surge was only temporary, but scientists who studied the surge estimated it to be a 1-in-850-year event, and it’s been blamed on accelerated beach erosion “almost as significant as some hurricane events.”

Possibly worse than rising ocean temperatures is the acidification of the waters. Acidification has a direct effect on mollusks and other marine animals with hard outer bodies: A striking study last year showed that, along the West Coast, the shells of tiny snails are already dissolving, with as-yet-unknown consequences on the ecosystem. One of the study’s authors, Nina Bednaršek, told Science magazine that the snails’ shells, pitted by the acidifying ocean, resembled “cauliflower” or “sandpaper.” A similarly striking study by more than a dozen of the world’s top ocean scientists this July said that the current pace of increasing carbon emissions would force an “effectively irreversible” change on ocean ecosystems during this century. In as little as a decade, the study suggested, chemical changes will rise significantly above background levels in nearly half of the world’s oceans.

“I used to think it was kind of hard to make things in the ocean go extinct,” James Barry of the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute in California told the Seattle Times in 2013. “But this change we’re seeing is happening so fast it’s almost instantaneous.”

Thanks to the pressure we’re putting on the planet’s ecosystem — warming, acidification and good old-fashioned pollution — the oceans are set up for several decades of rapid change. Here’s what could happen next.

The combination of excessive nutrients from agricultural runoff, abnormal wind patterns and the warming oceans is already creating seasonal dead zones in coastal regions when algae blooms suck up most of the available oxygen. The appearance of low-oxygen regions has doubled in frequency every 10 years since 1960 and should continue to grow over the coming decades at an even greater rate.

So far, dead zones have remained mostly close to the coasts, but in the 21st century, deep-ocean dead zones could become common. These low-oxygen regions could gradually expand in size — potentially thousands of miles across — which would force fish, whales, pretty much everything upward. If this were to occur, large sections of the temperate deep oceans would suffer should the oxygen-free layer grow so pronounced that it stratifies, pushing surface ocean warming into overdrive and hindering upwelling of cooler, nutrient-rich deeper water.

Enhanced evaporation from the warmer oceans will create heavier downpours, perhaps destabilizing the root systems of forests, and accelerated runoff will pour more excess nutrients into coastal areas, further enhancing dead zones. In the past year, downpours have broken records in Long Island, Phoenix, Detroit, Baltimore, Houston and Pensacola, Florida.

Evidence for the above scenario comes in large part from our best understanding of what happened 250 million years ago, during the “Great Dying,” when more than 90 percent of all oceanic species perished after a pulse of carbon dioxide and methane from land-based sources began a period of profound climate change. The conditions that triggered “Great Dying” took hundreds of thousands of years to develop. But humans have been emitting carbon dioxide at a much quicker rate, so the current mass extinction only took 100 years or so to kick-start.

With all these stressors working against it, a hypoxic feedback loop could wind up destroying some of the oceans’ most species-rich ecosystems within our lifetime. A recent study by Sarah Moffitt of the University of California-Davis said it could take the ocean thousands of years to recover. “Looking forward for my kid, people in the future are not going to have the same ocean that I have today,” Moffitt said.

As you might expect, having tickets to the front row of a global environmental catastrophe is taking an increasingly emotional toll on scientists, and in some cases pushing them toward advocacy. Of the two dozen or so scientists I interviewed for this piece, virtually all drifted into apocalyptic language at some point.

For Simone Alin, an oceanographer focusing on ocean acidification at NOAA’s Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory in Seattle, the changes she’s seeing hit close to home. The Puget Sound is a natural laboratory for the coming decades of rapid change because its waters are naturally more acidified than most of the world’s marine ecosystems.

The local oyster industry here is already seeing serious impacts from acidifying waters and is going to great lengths to avoid a total collapse. Alin calls oysters, which are non-native, the canary in the coal mine for the Puget Sound: “A canary is also not native to a coal mine, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a good indicator of change.”

Though she works on fundamental oceanic changes every day, the Dutkiewicz study on the impending large-scale changes to plankton caught her off-guard: “This was alarming to me because if the basis of the food web changes, then?.?.?.?everything could change, right?”

Alin’s frank discussion of the looming oceanic apocalypse is perhaps a product of studying unfathomable change every day. But four years ago, the birth of her twins “heightened the whole issue,” she says. “I was worried enough about these problems before having kids that I maybe wondered whether it was a good idea. Now, it just makes me feel crushed.”

Katharine Hayhoe, a climate scientist and evangelical Christian, moved from Canada to Texas with her husband, a pastor, precisely because of its vulnerability to climate change. There, she engages with the evangelical community on science — almost as a missionary would. But she’s already planning her exit strategy: “If we continue on our current pathway, Canada will be home for us long term. But the majority of people don’t have an exit strategy.?.?.?.?So that’s who I’m here trying to help.”

James Hansen, the dean of climate scientists, retired from NASA in 2013 to become a climate activist. But for all the gloom of the report he just put his name to, Hansen is actually somewhat hopeful. That’s because he knows that climate change has a straightforward solution: End fossil-fuel use as quickly as possible. If tomorrow, the leaders of the United States and China would agree to a sufficiently strong, coordinated carbon tax that’s also applied to imports, the rest of the world would have no choice but to sign up. This idea has already been pitched to Congress several times, with tepid bipartisan support. Even though a carbon tax is probably a long shot, for Hansen, even the slim possibility that bold action like this might happen is enough for him to devote the rest of his life to working to achieve it. On a conference call with reporters in July, Hansen said a potential joint U.S.-China carbon tax is more important than whatever happens at the United Nations climate talks in Paris.

One group Hansen is helping is Our Children’s Trust, a legal advocacy organization that’s filed a number of novel challenges on behalf of minors under the idea that climate change is a violation of intergenerational equity — children, the group argues, are lawfully entitled to inherit a healthy planet.

A separate challenge to U.S. law is being brought by a former EPA scientist arguing that carbon dioxide isn’t just a pollutant (which, under the Clean Air Act, can dissipate on its own), it’s also a toxic substance. In general, these substances have exceptionally long life spans in the environment, cause an unreasonable risk, and therefore require remediation. In this case, remediation may involve planting vast numbers of trees or restoring wetlands to bury excess carbon underground.

Even if these novel challenges succeed, it will take years before a bend in the curve is noticeable. But maybe that’s enough. When all feels lost, saving a few species will feel like a triumph.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on August 8th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

Atlanta (CNN) — August 8, 2015 — Donald Trump’s latest controversial comment was so alarming that he’s been disinvited from a conservative gathering Saturday in Atlanta.

At issue: Trump’s comments on “CNN Tonight” about Fox News’ Megyn Kelly, who moderated a GOP presidential candidate debate Thursday night. During the debate, she pressed Trump about misogynistic, sexist comments he made in the past.

“You could see there was blood coming out of her eyes,” Trump told CNN’s Don Lemon on Friday night. “Blood coming out of her wherever.”

That remark crossed the line, said RedState.com editor Erick Erickson. He disinvited Trump from the RedState Gathering, a conservative event featuring presidential hopefuls this weekend in Atlanta.

I have tried to give a great deal of latitude to Donald Trump in his run for the presidency,” Erickson wrote.

“He is not a professional politician and is known for being a blunt talker. He connects with so much of the anger in the Republican base and is not afraid to be outspoken on a lot of issues. But there are even lines blunt talkers and unprofessional politicians should not cross. Decency is one of those lines.”

Erickson said while he likes Trump personally, “I just don’t want someone on stage who gets a hostile question from a lady and his first inclination is to imply it was hormonal. It just was wrong.”

But the Trump campaign fired back, saying “this is just another example of weakness through being politically correct.”

“For all of the people who were looking forward to Mr. Trump coming, we will miss you,” his campaign said. “Blame Erick Erickson, your weak and pathetic leader. We’ll now be doing another campaign stop at another location.”


The RedState Gathering will go on without Trump. This year, the annual event features fellow GOP presidential candidates Jeb Bush, Chris Christie, Ted Cruz, Carly Fiorina, Mike Huckabee, Bobby Jindal, Rick Perry, Marco Rubio and Scott Walker.

As for newly vacant spot at the RedState Gathering, Erickson has invited Kelly to replace Trump.

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Having invited Carly Fiorina, the inclusion of Fox’s Megyn Kelly increases at the RedStates.com gathering number of women in their “Ten” to two. They also bring up Bobby Jindal and Rick Perry. Left out besides Trump and Carson are also Paul and – most significantly – Kasich.

Was Dr. Carson left out because of his statement: “his patients’ brains, not their skin color, are what ‘makes them who they are?’”

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The New York Times front article today – August 8, 2015 – has it:

After Senator Marco Rubio of Florida insisted at the Republican presidential debate that rape and incest victims should carry pregnancies to term, aides to Hillary Rodham Clinton could barely contain their delight at his unyielding stance, rushing to tell reporters at her headquarters that those remarks would hurt Mr. Rubio with female voters.

When Donald J. Trump chose on Friday to stand by his slights against women during the debate, saying the Fox News journalist Megyn Kelly “behaved very badly” as a moderator —
and then promoting a Twitter message calling her a “bimbo” — feminists were not the only ones outraged: the chairwoman of the New Hampshire Republican Party accused Mr. Trump of chauvinism.

And in response to multiple male candidates saying they would shut down the federal government over financing for Planned Parenthood, the Democratic National Committee emailed talking points to allies within an hour saying that among the losers at the debate were “American women, who were attacked at every turn.”

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on July 29th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

Coming Clean – The blog of Executive Director Michael Brune, The Sierra Club.
July 23, 2015


Obama’s Arctic Error: A Bad Call on Shell


The Obama administration inched a little closer to disaster yesterday when it issued almost-but-not-quite final approval to Royal Dutch Shell to drill in the Chukchi Sea this summer. Because Shell’s capping stack (a critical piece of emergency response equipment) is currently on its way to Portland, Oregon, aboard a damaged icebreaker that requires repairs, the oil company is allowed to drill only part way into the seafloor — stopping short of where the oil is. If and when the capping stack gets to the proposed drilling site, Shell could then reapply for permission to resume drilling the rest of the way.


Last week, I wrote about why letting Shell into the Arctic makes no sense. It’s a case of taking huge risks to get something we don’t need. In fact, not only do we not need that oil and gas — we can’t even afford to use it if we want to meet the urgent imperative to limit climate disruption.

So why has the administration allowed things to go this far? If this were a wedding with a reluctant bridegroom, we’d be listening to the minister clear his throat and gaze out over the congregation. I don’t know. Maybe, even though they know this is a bad idea, they just don’t have the guts to call it off.

But you know what? That’s the wrong analogy. What’s about to happen in the Chukchi Sea is more like a blind date than a shotgun wedding. Even if Shell manages to get its act together with its exploratory drilling this summer, it will still need approval for commercial drilling, and it will be even harder to make a case that such drilling can be done safely. Shell would also need to install hundreds of miles of pipeline, both on the seafloor and dry land. The process could take a decade or more, and every step along the way, we have opportunities to make the case that clean energy is better for our country and our planet. And the longer this drags on, the more obvious it will be that drilling in Arctic waters is an unnecessary invitation to disaster.


When Shell’s damaged ship arrives in Portland, we’ll be there. When Shell cuts corners or takes dangerous risks, we’ll be there. When this or any other administration flirts with selling more oil leases in the Chukchi and Beaufort seas, we’ll be there, in the courts and on the streets. We’re in this for the long haul, along with the hundreds of thousands of Americans who’ve already joined the growing #ShellNo! movement. We’re in it for the Arctic, for the wildlife, for the Native Alaskans, and for the climate. And we’re in it to win.

We will not rest until President Obama cancels all drilling and future leases and protects the Arctic Ocean.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on July 13th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

Reported by Irith Jawetz from Vienna
July 12. 2015

On Friday, July 10, 2015 – a very timely – at the Diplomatic Academy in Vienna.
Since the Iran talks are being held in Vienna, the panel discussion was very appropriate and although many people have left the City for the Summer, or at least for the weekend, this round table – and the room were full.
I will try to give a somewhat concise reporting of that event.

The event was called: Iran und der Westen nach den Verhandlungen (Iran and the West after the talks).

The participants were:

Dr. Christian Prosl, Austrian Ambassador to Washingtion 2009-2011

Dr. Walter Posch, Institut für Friedenssicherung und Konfliktforschung an der Landesverteidigungsakademie Wien
( Institute for Peace Support and Conflict Management, Vienna).

Dr. Arian Faal, Journalist, APA (the Austrian Press Agency) and Wiener Zeitung

The excellent moderator was Dr. Werner Fasslabend, President of the Politische Akademie und des AIES, former Austrian Minister for Defense.

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Dr. Fasselabend opened the discussion stating that only 99.9% of the talks are completed.

He continued by by displaying historic and current maps of the Region, giving us a broad historic overview of Iran and its influence on the region. He stressed that because of Iran’s geographical location it was and still is a very large regional power and stability in the Middle East without Iran’s cooperation is impossible.

Dr. Arian Faal, Journalist for APA (Austrian Press Agentur) and Wiener Zeitung gave us an inside look from the perspective of the journalists covering the talks.

He recalled that after 17 days, 12-16 hours of work, 600 journalists and at a cost of about $1 million for the stay in Vienna by US Secretary of State John Kerry and his delegation at the famous Imperial Hotel, there is still no deal. There have been many improvements since the beginning of the talks, but still no deal. Mr. Kerry has prolonged his stay yet again and said a deadline will not be a factor as long as an agreement can be achieved. The new deadline to be breached is Monday July 13th.

The three major problems that stand in the way of an agreement are:

1) The sanctions on Iran – the Iranian delegation insists those have to be lifted right away;

2) The UN Arms Embargo that includes conventional weapons;

3) Political readiness by President Obama and Ali Khamenei, Supreme Leader of Iran. Both have to agree to a deal which will be accepted at home.

Dr. Faal said he is an optimist by nature and is still hopeful that an agreement will be reached.

Ambassador Dr. Christian Prosl addressed the matter from the US point of view. He said that for the US the stability of the region and the security of the State of Israel are the main factors and the two problems which the US faces are with Israel and Saudi Arabia.

Both countries, though for different reasons, are against any deal with Iran since they do not trust the Iranian regime.

As for the supply of oil, this is not anymore a factor for the US because of the fracking industry. However, the strained relationship between President Obama and the Republican party may be a factor. The Republicans have tried for a long time now to see that President Obama fails, and they may try to fail him also in this endeavor. Mr. Netanyahu’s speech in Congress against the Iran deal, which was prompted by the invitation of Speaker of the House John Boemer, did not help. However Ambassador Prosl said that he cannot imagine that the Republicans will fail the agreement if it is iron clad and the treaty will be safe for the US.

Dr. Posch addressed the matter from the Iranian point of view and concluded that although the problems are being viewed from different perspective, i.e. US, the EU and Iran, the will is there. Regional security, oil supply and human rights in Iran all play a part in the talks. He also was hopeful that a deal will be signed

At the end of the panel presentations, Dr. Fasselabend invited to the podium Dr. Massud Mossaheb, General Secretary of the Austro-Iranian Society in Vienna.

Mr. Mossaheb said that there is mutual mistrust between the West and the Iranian Government.

In spite of the fact that the Iranian nuclear position has not changed in the last 40 years, there is still mistrust. The people of Iran hope for the lifting of the sanctions so they can have a better quality of life. They suffer from high inflation and lack of supplies, especially in medications. Dr. Mossaheb also hopes for a deal to be reached.

As the end, the consensus was that the talks will go on, of course not for ever, but without the threat of an immediate deadline, and an agreement, which will be safe and beneficial for all participants will be reached.

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From the US MEDIA – I will add to the above
that the personal insistence of President Obama and Secretary Kerry, the opinion is that the White House investment in these talks is so high that a failure to obtain an agreement is unthinkable.

The fact that the Iranians see this deep involvement of the Americans has in itself weakened the position of the United States in these negotiations. But then, the Iran Supreme leader Ayatollah Sayyid Ali Khamenei – whose position is still strong as he is still blindly followed by the Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) who are in charge of the Nuclear Program – may be using tough talk now just to make sure that his agreeing to an agreement is not viewed as weakness. The Iranian people want an end to the sanctions provided it is not seen as a cave in (the CNN/GPS program of Fareed Zakaria).

The current round, now in its 16-th day, was supposed to conclude on June 30, but was extended until July 7, then July 10 and now July 13. The sides had hoped to seal a deal before the end of Thursday in Washington to avoid delays in implementing their promises.

By missing that target, the U.S. and Iran now have to wait for a 60-day congressional review period during which President Barack Obama can’t waive sanctions on Iran. Had they reached a deal by Thursday, the review would have been only 30 days.

En route to Mass at Vienna’s St. Stephens Cathedral, Kerry said twice he was “hopeful” after a “very good meeting” Saturday with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, who had Muslim services Friday.

Kerry noted that “a few tough things” remain in the way of agreement but added: “We’re getting to some real decisions.”

A senior State Department official also said Sunday that the department will not speculate about the timing of anything during the talks and that key issues remain unresolved.

Iran’s state-run Press TV cited Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Saturday as calling the U.S. an “excellent example of arrogance.” It reported that Khamenei told university students in Tehran to be “prepared to continue the struggle against arrogant powers.”

His comments suggest Tehran’s distrust of Washington will persist whether a deal gets done or not. Khamenei’s comments also have appeared thus to be a blow to U.S. hopes than agreement will lead to improved relations with the country and possible cooperation against Islamic rebels.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, like Kerry, indicated talks could go either way. “We behaved so skillfully that if talks won’t succeed, the world would accept that Iran is for logic and dialogue and never left the negotiating table … and if we succeed by the grace of God, the world will know that the Iranian nation can resolve its problems through logic,” his website quoted him as saying.

The supreme leader’s comments also come after it was learned Saturday that the Islamic Republic’s spies have been seeking atomic and missile technology in neighboring Germany as recently as last month.

Iran’s illegal activities have continued since talks between Iran and the P5+1 – the five permanent members of the UN Security Council as well as rotating member Germany – began with a Joint Plan of Action in 2013, according to German intelligence sources. The JPOA was intended to stop Iran’s work on a nuclear weapon until a comprehensive agreement is reached.

“You would think that with the negotiations, [Iranian] activities would drop,” a German intelligence source said. “Despite the talks to end Iran’s program, Iran did not make an about-turn.”

With a final agreement to restrict Iran’s nuclear program set for Monday, the intelligence data from Germany raises disturbing questions about the success of the deal.

Tehran has sought industry computers, high-speed cameras, cable fiber, and pumps for its nuclear and missile program over the last two years, according to German intelligence sources. Germany is required to report Iran’s illegal procurement activities to the UN.

Iran is unlikely to begin a substantial rollback of its nuclear program until it gets sanctions relief in return.

But then the Russian and Chinese Foreign Ministers said they will come to Vienna for the signing of the agreement – and the news are that Mr. Sergei Lavrov has said he will be there on Monday.

An Iranian diplomat said that they have a 100 pages document to study and that logistically it cannot be done by Sunday night with parallel meetings going on.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on July 12th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

Election 2016

Bernie Sanders Out-Raises all the Republicans — Except for One Disgusting Loophole
Looking at election numbers leads to some interesting conclusions.

By Zaid Jilani / AlterNet
July 10, 2015


What’s most surprising to many political observers is how the Sanders campaign on the Democratic side has managed to tap small donors to quickly raise large totals. As of its most recent reporting, the campaign raised $15 million from 400,000 donations from 200,000 donors. This puts it ahead of its Republican opponents. In contrast, Jeb Bush raised $11.4 million. Ted Cruz raised around $14 million. No GOP campaign matched the Sanders haul.

But there’s a catch. While Sanders is creating the broadest base of financial support, recruiting donors at a much quicker rate than other insurgent candidates like Ron Paul in 2008, and out-raising his Republican opponents’ official campaigns, there is another factor at play: super PACs.

These entities, created by the Citizens United Supreme Court decision, allows billionaires and corporations to effectively spend whatever they want in support of a candidate. While they are not supposed to officially coordinate with candidates, this law has been more or less openly flouted this cycle.

Bush’s super PAC raised $103 million, around 10 times as much as the candidate raised through his actual campaign. Cruz’s super PACs raised over $30 million, twice as much as what his campaign raised.

These numbers are evidence of the Citizens United bump, and and make it so a candidate doesn’t have to go out and recruit lots of small donors and actually meet lots of Americans in order to raise money.

Jeb Bush’s super PAC has only 9,900 donors; and they’re the only fundraisers he really has to listen to.

Thanks to the Supreme Court, this is the way things are now.

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Zaid Jilani is an AlterNet staff writer. Follow @zaidjilani on Twitter.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on July 10th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)


Uri Avnery

July 11, 2015

To be Greek

EVERYBODY HAS already voiced his (or her) opinion on the Greek crisis, whether he (or she) has an opinion or not. So I feel obliged to do the same.

The crisis is immensely complicated. However, it looks to me quite simple.

The Greeks spent more than they earned. The creditors, in their incredible impertinence, want their money back. The Greeks have no money, and anyhow, their pride does not allow them to pay.

So what to do? Every commentator, from Nobel prize-winning economists to my taxi driver in Tel Aviv, has a solution. Unfortunately, no one listens to them.

Angela Merkel and Alexis Tsipras go on fighting World War II. But the relations between the two nations played a role in my family long before that.

AS A boy, my father was a pupil in a German “humanist” high school. In these schools, pupils learned Latin and ancient Greek instead of English and French. So I heard Latin and Greek sayings before I went to school and learned Latin myself – for half a year before we fortunately left Germany for Palestine in 1933.

Educated Germans admired the Romans. The Romans were straight-minded people who made laws and obeyed them, almost like the Germans themselves.

Germans loved the ancient Greeks and despised them. As their most important poet, Wolfgang von Goethe, said: “Das Griechenvolk, es taugte nie recht viel” – the Greek people never amounted to very much.

The Greeks invented freedom, something the ancient Hebrews did not even dream of. The Greeks invented democracy. In Athens, everybody (except slaves, women, barbarians and other inferior folk) took part in public discussions and decision-making. This did not leave them much time to work.

That was the way my father looked at them, and this is the way decent Germans look at them now. Nice people to have around on vacation, but not serious people to do business with. Too lazy. Too life-loving.

I suspect that these ingrained attitudes influence the opinions of German leaders and voters now. They certainly influence the attitudes of Greek leaders and voters towards Germany. To hell with them and their obsession with law and order.

I HAVE stayed several times in Greece, and always liked the people.

My wife, Rachel, loved the island of Hydra and took me there. To find a ship to go there from Piraeus was quite an ordeal. That was of course before the internet. Every shipping agency had a timetable for its boats, but there did not exist a general timetable. That would have been too orderly, too German. (If Piraeus had been Haifa, there would have been an all-inclusive timetable in every shop window.)

I was invited to several international conferences in Athens. One was presided over by the wonderful Melina Mercouri, so intelligent and so beautiful, who served at the time as a cabinet minister. It concerned Mediterranean culture, and was mixed with a lot of good food and folk dances. I once helped to host Mikis Theodorakis in Tel Aviv.

So I have no prejudices against the Greeks. On the contrary. Before the last Greek elections I received an e-mail message from a person I did not know, asking me to sign an international statement of support for the Syriza party. After reading the material, I did. I sympathize with their heroic fight now.

I am reminded of the “Sailors’ Revolt” in Israel in the early 1950s. It was an uprising against the governing bureaucracy. I supported it with all my heart and was even arrested for a few hours. When it all ended in a glorious defeat, I met a famous leftist general and expected to be lauded. He said: “Only fools start a struggle they cannot win!”

It boils down to this: the Greeks owe a lot of money. A huge lot of money. It is now immaterial how this huge debt came about, and who is to blame. Europe (the very name is Greek) has no chance of getting the billions back. But they’ll be damned if they will pour more money into this bottomless pit. How can Greece survive without more money?

I don’t know. I strongly suspect that no one else does, either. Including the Nobel Prize laureates.

FOR ME, the most important aspect of the disaster is the future of the two great experiments: the European Union and the Euro currency.

When the European idea gained ground on the continent after the fratricidal World War II, there was a great debate about its future contours. Some proposed something like the United States of Europe, a federal union on the lines of the USA. Charles de Gaulle, a very influential voice at the time, objected strenuously and proposed l’Europe des Nations, a much more loose confederation.

Much the same debate took place in America before the final decision to create the United States, and again at the time of the civil war. In the end, the federalists won, and the confederate flags are being burned even now.

In Europe, de Gaulle’s idea won. There was no strong will to create a united European state. National governments were ready, after some years, to create a union of independent states, which grudgingly transferred some sovereign powers to the super-government in Brussels.

(Why Brussels? Because Belgium is a small country. Neither Germany nor France was ready to allow the union’s capital to be located in either of them. It reminds one of the Biblical King David, who moved his capital to Jerusalem, which belonged to no tribe, so as to avoid the jealousy between the powerful tribes of Judah and Ephraim.)

The Brussels bureaucracy seems to be heartily hated by all, but its power is inexorably growing. Modern reality favors larger and larger units. No future for small states.

This brings us to the Euro. The European idea led to the formation of a huge bloc, in which a common currency could flow freely. To a layman like me, it seemed like a wonderful idea. I don’t remember a single prominent economist warning against it.

Today it is easy to say that the Euro bloc was flawed from the beginning. Even I understand that you cannot have a single currency when each member state shapes its national budget according to its own whims and political interests.

That is the fundamental difference between a federation and a confederation. How would the USA operate if each of its 50 member states ran its own economy independently of the other 49?

As the economists teach us now, something like the Euro crisis cannot happen in the US. If the state of Alabama is in bad financial shape, all the other states step in automatically. The central bank (or Federal Reserve) simply shuffles money around. No problem.

The Greek crisis arises from the fact that the Euro is not based on such a federation. The Greek economic breakdown would have been stopped by the European central bank long before it had reached the present point. Money would have flowed from Brussels to Athens without anybody even noticing. Tsipras could have embraced Merkel in her chancellery and happily announced “Ich bin ein Berliner!” (I can’t really imagine Merkel going to Athens and proclaiming “Ich bin eine Griechin!”)

The first lesson of the crisis is that the creation of a currency union presupposes a readiness of all member states to give up their economic independence. A country that is not prepared to do so cannot join such a union. Each country can keep its precious football team, and even its sacred flag, but its national budget must be subject to the joint economic super-government.

Today that is quite clear. Unfortunately, it was not clear to the founders of the Euro bloc.

In this respect, a giant nation like China has a huge advantage. It is not even a federation, but in practice a unitary state, with a unitary currency.

Small states, like Israel, lack the economic security of belonging to a large union, but enjoy the advantage of being able to maneuver freely, and to fix our currency, the Shekel, according to our interests. If export prices are too high, you just devalue. As long as your credit rating is high enough, you can do what you want.

Fortunately, nobody invited us to join the Euro bloc. The temptation would have been too strong.

THIS BEING so, we can follow the Greek crisis with some equanimity.

But for those of us who believe that after achieving peace with the Palestinian people and the entire Arab world, Israel must become a part of some kind of a regional confederation, this is an instructive lesson.

I wrote about this even before the State of Israel was born, calling for a “Semitic Union”. It probably won’t happen while I am still around, but I am fairly sure that it will come about before the end of this century.

It cannot happen while the economic gap between Israel and the Arab countries is as immense as it is now – with per capita income 25 times higher in Israel than in Palestine and many Arab countries. But once the Arab world overcomes its present turmoil, they can hope for rapid progress, as is happening in Turkey and Muslim countries in East Asia.

Sometime in the not too remote future, in historical terms, the world will consist of large economic units striving to create a working economic world order, with a joint currency.

It may seem silly to think about this in the present situation. But it’s never too early to think.

Always remembering what Socrates said: “The only true wisdom is in knowing that you know nothing.”

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on June 15th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

The Sunday, June 14, 2015 program started with Fareed retelling us the content of his last Friday’s Washington Post column - www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/s… /9ce1f4f8-1074-11e5-9726-49d6fa26a8c6_story.html?wpisrc=nl_opinions&wpmm=1

While some hysteria-builders in Washington are worried about a Saudi nuclear race to follow Iran, Fareed Zakaria tells us clearly that besides drilling holes to get out oil from the ground, the Saudis have actually not proven capability of doing anything else. They just do not have the people nor the education system that leads to knowledge. You can actually conclude that they are hardly a State in the normal sense of the word – though with them having a full treasury they will not fail easily – but clearly not amount to much power either. In effect they are a natural target for ISIS – so let them not bluff us.

The Saudi GDP is based 44% on oil and 90% of their revenues are from oil. Their puritanical reactionary conservative education system puts them at 73rd place in global ranking compared to the much poorer Iran that is placed 44th. Two out of three people with a job are foreigners – hardly a recommendation for capability of doing anything.

Then Fareed brought on Professor Michael Porter of Harvard who makes now a career of talking and writing about America’s unconventional energy opportunity that turned the till-2005 dependence on gas import and till 2008 dependence on oil import – to an economy now that produces $430 billion/year of oil-shale fracking gas and oil products – that he says have reduced the energy bill of an average American family by $800/year and is now being enhanced by secondary industries like the petrochemical industry.

Gas prices are now lower by one third then those in US trading-countries and he contends that even though there are environmental problems with “fracking” these problems get smaller with time as there are new technological developments leading to decrease in pollution. Oh well – this at least reduces the US dependence on Saudi good-will.

To point out some more the effect of oil on developing countries that export the stuff, Fareed brought on a New Yorker journalist who works now in Luanda, Angola, and previously worked many years in Russia. Michael Specter was fascinating in his description of the “Bizarro” World of Luanda where for four out of the last five years Luanda was the most expensive City for the “Expatriates.” The Fifth year they were second to Japan.

With a watermelon selling for $105, a Coke for $10 and a cab-ride of 20 miles costing $450 – this while the working locals make $4/day while after Nigeria Angola is now the second largest oil producer in Africa.

For a saner discussion Fareed brought on Richard Haass – a former official of the Bush administration, Advisor to Colin Powell and president of the New York City based Council on Foreign Relations since July 2003, and David Rothkopf – who worked for the Clinton Administration, Managed the Kissinger Associates, and now is CEO and Editor of the Foreign Policy Group that publishes Foreign Policy Magazine. Interesting, it was Haass who wore a blue tie and Rothkopf who wore a red tie – and to my surprise, and clearly to their own surprise – there was no difference between their positions on the issues.

The main topic was Iraq and they agreed that sending in some more advisers to keep the ongoing losing policy in place makes no sense and never did. Iraq has passed, or was handed, to Iran while the only functioning part of it are the Kurdish evolving State.

The problem is the Sunni part that will eventually be a State as well – but it depends on a change in US position if this will be the ISIS State or a conventional Sunni State. Trying to hold the three parts of Iraq together does not make sense – period.

Oh well – how we got there – ask the Bush family – now we guess – ask Jeb (John Ellis) Bush. and Fareed also pointed a finger at Senator Rick Santorum who wants to be President and says the Pope should not mix the church and science – leave science to the scientists which for him are the Climate-deniers paid by the oil industry.

Fareed pointed out to Santorum that Pope Franciscus happens to be a scientist. He was trained as chemist and worked as a chemist before reentering the seminarium for clerical studies.

This coming week the world might finally get a boost from the Catholic Church as very well described in the New York Times article by Jim Yardley of June 13, 2015: “Pope Francis to Explore Climate’s Effect on World’s Poor.”

On Thursday June 18, 2015, Pope Franciscus will release his most important Encyclical on the theme of the environment and the poor. This follows a meeting May 2014 of the Pope with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon accompanied by his Development lieutenants. This could be finally a joined effort for the good of humanity – of faith and true science.

Above is not completely new. Already the last two popes started to investigate the moral choices of development. Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI already wrote about the role of industrial pollution in destroying the environment. Francis went further – and on his January 2015 trip to the Philippines expressed his being convinced that global warming was “most;y” a human-made phenomenon. Now he is expected in the September trip to Cuba and New York, to bring the encyclical to the UN General Assembly and encourage the Heads of States to bring the issue to a positive conclusion at the December Climate Convention meting in Paris. The driving force of this Pope is his experience in Latin America with an agenda of poverty and Unsustainable Consumption that reveals ethical issues. He can be expected to reject the American conservative interests underwritten by oil industry interests that send to his doorsteps folks like Marc Morano and the Heartland Foundation with Republican Skeptics found in the US Senate of James Inhofe of Oklahoma.

Fareed also mentioned on his program the fact that coincidentally it was June 15, 1215 that King John released the First Magna Carta that was shortly thereafter declared “Null and Void for all validity for-ever” by Pope Innocent II. A new Magna Carta was instituted later and it is the 2025 version that is the basis for the Constitutions of many States – including the USA. Pope Francis’s Encyclical might be viewed by future generations as the Magna Carta for the Earth – we hope the term SUSTAINABILITY will be brought into full focus – so ought to be “sustainable development.”

One last issue of this State of the World program was about the dwindling population in all European States and in many Asian States as well. It is only the USA that is growing – this thanks to immigration and some might say energy autarky?. The subject needs more linking to the rest of the program ingredients and we expect this will be done eventually.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on May 23rd, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

From pro-American to pro-Russian? Nikola Gruevski as a political chameleon.
Vassilis Petsinis, 22 May 2015, openDemocracy, London

A former staunch ally of the US-led War on Terror, Macedonia PM Nikola Gruevski has gradually turned his country away from the west towards Russia – all the while keeping his neoconservative ideology intact.

Following the unrest in Kumanovo and the massive anti-government protests, FYR Macedonia has captivated the interest of the international press. The most recent mobilization has been the peak of a wave of discontent that commenced with the countrywide student protests some weeks ago. In the domestic front, opposition circles have issued a series of charges against the government led by the conservative VMRO-DPMNE such as: promotion of nepotism, unwillingness to combat corruption, illegitimate surveillance of political opponents and, on top of all, growing authoritarianism.

Meanwhile, political analysts have detected a certain rift in the relations between Skopje and the West which has resulted in the Macedonian government’s more decisive reorientation towards Moscow.

Russia has pledged its political support to Nikola Gruevski’s and the two sides have extended their cooperation in energy issues and other areas of economic concern. Without neglecting the crucial impact of shifting geopolitics, this brief piece mostly concentrates on VMRO-DPMNE’s, predominantly, neoconservative agenda under the leadership of Nikola Gruevski. It also sets in a comparative context how this neoconservative platform has remained intact despite the gradual readjustment of the state’s foreign policy from Euro-Atlantic institutions towards Moscow’s orbit of influence.

From one neocon to another:

In 2003, Nikola Gruevski succeeded Ljub?o Georgievski in the party’s leadership. An ambitious young politician back then, Gruevski’s main ambition was to centralize decision-making within VMRO-DPMNE and modernize the party’s structures.

The latter objective was achieved via the recruitment of a younger pool of cadres. Following a widespread trend all over Southeast Europe (e.g. Albania’s Edi Rama and Serbia’s Vuk Jeremi?), the party’s central committee and later the Cabinet of Ministers consisted of young, aspiring and, often, Western-educated individuals (e.g. the Foreign Minister between 2006 and 2011, Antonio Milošoski). Moreover, Gruevski maintained the central aspects of Georgievski’s strategy of rapprochement vis-à-vis the ethnic Albanian community.

Despite this, Gruevski’s term in office has been marked by the emphatic endorsement of Neo-Macedonism to the detriment of the modernist narratives over the Macedonian ethno-genesis in the nineteenth century. The adoption of Neo-Macedonism became further institutionalized through the endorsement of grandiose architectural projects, largely inspired by classical antiquity, which commenced in 2010.

On the domestic front, the Socialists/SDSM and other opposition circles accused the government of investing a disproportional percentage of the state’s budget on these projects. In foreign policy, the emphasis on Neo-Macedonism further complicated relations with the southern neighbour, Greece.

Since the early days of Nikola Gruevski’s term in office, the ‘new’ VMRO-DPMNE drew inspiration from the rather influential trend of neoconservatism among policymaking circles in the US. As it was the case with various other statesmen in Central and Southeast Europe (e.g. Romania’s Traian B?sescu), Nikola Gruevski underlined his firm commitment to Euro-Atlantic institutions and opted for the rapid liberalization of the economy along post-Keynesian lines.

Meanwhile, Gruevski constantly stressed his deep faith in God and highlighted the significance of Eastern Orthodoxy and its system of moral values as a fundamental pillar of the state’s identity. In the field of foreign policy, Nikola Gruevski soon emerged as a staunch supporter of George W. Bush’s policy-doctrine on the Middle East. Throughout the 2000s, FYR Macedonia had dispatched military personnel to Afghanistan and Iraq under the auspices of the US-led ‘Coalition of the Willing’.

The NATO summit in Bucharest (April 2-4, 2008) was a landmark. As a gesture of gratitude to its small Balkan ally, the US delegation elaborated possible ways to include FYR Macedonia in the NATO enlargement round irrespective of the state’s dispute with Greece. However, the Greek PM, Kostas Karamanlis, vetoed this proposal on the basis that any outstanding issues with the northern neighbour must be previously resolved in order for Greece to grant its assent.

The Greek veto was met with discontent in Washington and infuriated Skopje. Especially in the light of Karamanlis’ opening to Russia, Skopje-based policymakers and think-tanks did not simply charge Athens with ‘parochial and introverted nationalism’. They went a step further and accused Greece of acting as a ‘Trojan horse’ in Moscow’s service with the aim to destabilize NATO and sabotage its enlargement in Southeast Europe.

The pendulum shifts: Fluctuating geopolitics and disillusionment with the West

Barack Obama, who succeeded G.W. Bush to the US Presidency in 2009, watered down various aspects of his predecessor’s ‘hawkish’ foreign policy. Instead, the new administration in the White House opted for a doctrine of appeasement in regards to their regional competitors (e.g. Russia and Iran).

Meanwhile, the simultaneous advent of the economic crisis made European policymakers more introverted and reluctant to the prospects of the EU’s wider enlargement. With specific regard to FYR Macedonia, European policymakers and political analysts soon stroke a critical stance towards Nikola Gruevski and his apparatus. The main areas of concern were symptoms of nepotism and authoritarianism as well as accusations over the relentless propagation of ‘ethno-kitsch’.

This shifting landscape in global and regional politics had direct ramifications on the government circles in Skopje. Several commentators have argued that delaying the state’s accession to Euro-Atlantic institutions runs detrimental to FYR Macedonia’s stateness and it is largely to account for Skopje’s disillusionment with the West. From a more ‘ideological’ angle, though, the change of guard in the White House and the subsequent adoption of a new US foreign policy doctrine are not to be overlooked either.

In other words, Nikola Gruevski’s government has lost much of the patronage that it enjoyed during George W. Bush’s tenure in office. Moreover, we are currently experiencing the transition from a unipolar to a multipolar world order. The last few years have witnessed the consolidation of semi-authoritarian models of governance among emerging regional actors (e.g. Recep Tayyip Erdo?an in Turkey and Vladimir Putin in Russia). The latter development has encouraged the, if only subtle, admiration of certain statesmen throughout Central and Southeast Europe towards the above-mentioned models.

For instance, Hungary’s Viktor Orbán recently coined the concept of illiberal democracy. According to the Hungarian PM, ‘it is not an imperative that contemporary democracy must be structured along the ideological frame of Liberalism…there can be numerous other models of democracy in Europe, nowadays’. Moreover, Viktor Orbán has also positioned Hungary’s foreign policy more solidly within Russia’s orbit of influence.

In particular, both FIDESZ and VMRO-DPMNE converge along a common axis. Both are post-Communist parties that commenced their engagement in politics as, anti-establishment, umbrella-initiatives that hosted a wide range of conservative as well as liberal standpoints. However, in the long run, local adaptations of neoconservatism evolved into the dominant intra-party trend.

Nikola Gruevski and/or Viktor Orbán are not merely unhappy with the outlook(s) of Euro-Atlantic institutions on their respective states or the way(s) that their rule has been portrayed in the Western press. They have also isolated specific elements in Vladimir Putin’s leadership which they deem rather akin to their brand(s) of neoconservatism. These are, namely, Russia’s leader-centred and strong government, the promotion of national and Christian values, and the safeguarding of ‘naturally ascribed’ gender-roles.

Especially in the light of a multipolar international system, one might contend that the neoconservative, ideological, core in parties such as VMRO-DPMNE and/or FIDESZ has remained intact despite the, apparent, foreign policy readjustment towards Moscow.
What next? Skopje amidst political polarization and fears of ethnic radicalization

In addition to the decline of popular confidence, the government in Skopje may also have to face the challenge of resurgent ethnic radicalization. During the last couple of weeks, a militant group, allegedly consisting of ethnic Albanians, became active in the northern town of Kumanovo. The apparent resurgence of militant Albanian ethno-nationalism triggered a series of conspiracy theories.

Pro-government circles have hinted at the involvement of ‘foreign decision-making centres’ who are not particularly content with the bilateral cooperation between Russia and FYR Macedonia. In the other end of the spectrum, opposition circles have suspected the government of engineering the Kumanovo troubles in an attempt to play the card of ‘national unity’ as a last resort. A third assumption that has not been examined to an adequate extent is the possibility of a peculiar, yet amorphous, blend between Albanian ethno-nationalism and elements of Islamic fundamentalism along the lines of the ‘Chechen precedent’.

Russia, on its part, has been quick to point the finger for both the Kumanovo incidents and the anti-government mobilization at the West. The US and the EU have been accused of orchestrating one more ‘Maidan-style’ coup with the aim to destabilize the government and obstruct cooperation with Russia in energy issues.

Russia Today and other pro-Kremlin media outlets dedicated considerable time to the coverage of pro-government demonstrations where Russian flags also featured among the crowd. Quite a few Western political analysts have expressed the wishful thinking that Nikola Gruevski may be forced to resign under popular pressure and be replaced by a coalition government with a Euro-Atlantic orientation.

Setting regional geopolitics aside, Nikola Gruevski’s opening to Russia reveals an additional pathology of Post-communist politics. Even back at the time when parties such as VMRO-DPMNE and FIDESZ had adjusted their foreign policy more firmly towards the West, their political activity and decision-making had been shaped by local adaptations of the neoconservative narrative. Within the context of their political development, such parties replaced their admiration for certain aspects of American neoconservatism with the endorsement of selected elements found in Vladimir Putin’s semi-authoritarianism while their (neoconservative) ideological core remained intact.

Apart from nominally right-wing parties, centre-left statesmen in the region have also detected, albeit more subtly, some ‘positive’ aspects in Vladimir Putin’s pattern of governance (e.g. the Bulgarian Socialist Party/BSP and Slovakia’s SMER). Therefore, in order to grasp such chameleonic mutations more adequately, one should also pay close attention to political culture among post-Communist parties in Central and Southeast Europe and its evolution.

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Dr Vassilis Petsinis is a Visiting Researcher at the Herder Institute (Marburg, Germany). His main areas of specialization are European Politics and Ethnopolitics with a regional focus on Central and Southeast Europe. His academia.edu profile can be found here.

WE SUGGEST TO THINK ALSO THROUGH THE ELECTION RESULTS IN THE UK WHEN READING ABOVE ARTICLE – THIS SO THAT THE MAKINGS OF A EUROPEAN UNION ARE CONSIDERED WHEN LOOKING AT CENTRIPETAL MOVEMENTS LIKE THOSE APPEARING IN CENTRAL AND SOUTH EASTERN EUROPE.
ALSO, PLEASE DP NOT FORGET THE GREECE/MACEDONIA NAME DISPUTE AND EUROPE’S INCAPABILITY TO TELL THE GREEKS OFF IN THIS MATTER. WHAT A SHAME!

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Macedonia

Related Articles: The deep roots of Macedonia’s current turmoil – and the way forward – Heather Grabbe -the same source.


The deep roots of Macedonia’s current turmoil – and the way forward.

Heather Grabbe 13 May 2015, openDemocracy, London

The country must avoid just replacing the driver in the seat of a captured state machinery – by increasing inclusion and pluralism in governance. This will be impossible without EU and NATO assistance.

For nearly two decades, Macedonia has been a pressure cooker of public anger at corruption, deteriorating governance and chronic unemployment. Now the valve has blown. This year, union-organised strikes were followed by student protests against flawed education reforms. Then the opposition party released recordings of conversations that exposed government wire-tapping of more than 20,000 citizens. Quickly dubbed “bombs”, these recordings were released over the last three months by the main opposition party leader at press conferences. On them appear the voices of Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski, senior officials, journalists, judges and security officials conspiring in electoral and judicial fraud, and organising systemic corruption. On the latest, released on 4 May, the prime minister discusses with interior ministry officials a cover-up of the murder in June 2011 by one of his bodyguards of 21-year old Martin Neshkovski, a student who supported the ruling party.

These revelations have led to a new wave of protests, led by grassroots networks of civil society rather than the opposition party. The young activists have become more radical in their demands under sustained attacks by riot police and government infiltrators, who provoked the protestors for five nights in a row. Last Friday, they pledged to come back to demand the resignation of the prime minister. Then the population awoke on Saturday morning to news of what the government called a “terrorist attack” in an ethnically mixed neighbourhood in Kumanovo, a town near the Serbia/Kosovo border. The results were the deaths of police officers and arrests of alleged terrorists. The government-controlled media called for unquestioning support for the government, and labelled as a traitor anyone who disputed the official interpretation of events. What is going on? Is this a security crisis or a consolidation of power by the ruling party in the face of mounting opposition?

High stakes – but for security or politics?

The shootings in Kumanovo have woken up the rest of the world because they are reminiscent of the security crisis fifteen years ago, when ethnic Albanians took to the hills with their guns to demand rights, representation and jobs. The country narrowly escaped a full-blown civil war thanks to the Ohrid Agreement, which gave the Albanians greater political and economic inclusion, including quotas for public-sector jobs and parliamentary seats.

It was NATO and the EU that took responsibility for Macedonia’s security in 2001, with Javier Solana, as EU High Representative for Foreign Policy at the time, and George Robertson, then NATO Secretary-General, as the main negotiators at Ohrid. But the current crisis is not primarily driven by ethnic tensions. The security framing by the government obscures a much deeper crisis in the body politic, and a looming one for the economy.

After 24 years of independence, Macedonia’s model is crumbling. The ruling party has held onto power by controlling the state and media, and borrowing on international markets to keep the economy going. This has undermined the country’s fragile democracy – despite the promises made at Ohrid, which are still not fully implemented – and failed to build rule of law and a sustainable economy. Prime Minister Gruevski won power nearly a decade ago on promises of clean government and economic development. But he then perfected the system of clientelism and state capture begun by Branko Crvenkovski, his predecessor as opposition leader and prime minister, and later president. Gruevski has used snap elections twice to keep his party in power, and his leadership has become increasingly coercive. The wiretap recordings have confirmed that his VMRO-DPMNE party has captured all vital areas of the economy and established complete control over media, even imprisoning critical journalists. Macedonia’s ranking has fallen from 36 to 136 in the freedom of media index produced by Reporters Without Borders.

The government dispensed with parliamentary debate at the end of 2013. Faced with a short deadline to approve the next loan to pay pensions before the Christmas and New Year holidays, they forcibly expelled the opposition and media from the parliament during a debate over the state budget rather than find an agreement.

The public is scared. More than half of Macedonians believe they cannot freely express their opinions. A staggering 81 percent believe that fear of consequences for them and their families prevent them and others from speaking out. Their political fears are heightened by their economic vulnerability.

The chronic economic malaise underlying acute political crisis.

The Macedonian economy appears to be financially stable. The government nurtures an image of business promoter and responsible borrower. Until recently, it was the region’s poster child for the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. European banks were happy to earn good returns on Macedonian state bonds. Macedonia’s average GDP growth of 3% in the last three years is the highest in the region, completing this picture of prosperity.

But the economy is not sustainable. The government has used debt financing to invest in grandiose infrastructure projects, including the flagship “Skopje 2014” project, which erected statues and faux-classical buildings in the capital at a cost of over 600 million euro. Between 2008 and 2014, Macedonia’s public debt quadrupled, rising from 23% of GDP in 2008 to around 46% in 2014. Debt is projected to reach the 60% ceiling prescribed by the international financial institutions by 2019. The state budget increased by a third over the same period (from roughly 2 to 3 billion euro). Inflows of foreign direct investment averaged only 2.8% of GDP per year between 2009 and 2014, low even by regional standards.

Life for citizens has become more precarious. Around a third of the workforce is unemployed, the second highest rate in Europe after Kosovo. Without the heavy borrowing, the fragile economy could not sustain more than 300,000 pensioners, who rely on the state budget for half of their needs. Nor could it afford to pay the huge number of state employees. The last official number was 140,000 in 2008, and latest estimates range from 200,000 to 255,000. The total number of people employed in Macedonia is 700,000 – meaning that the state employs nearly a third of the workforce. No wonder people are leaving to seek better prospects abroad. A census has been postponed by the government, but Gallup estimates that more than 300,000 people have left the country. According to Deutsche Welle, most of the 120,000 Macedonians who acquired Bulgarian passports have already emigrated to the EU or elsewhere. Macedonia seems to have more registered voters (at 1,780,128) than residents.

VMRO-DPMNE has kept its hold on power in this unhappy state by resorting to strident nationalism and intimidation of its opponents, increasing the divisions in a multi-ethnic country. Ethnic Macedonians are understandably aggrieved by the lack of a solution to the dispute with Greece over the country’s name, which already blocked entry to NATO – and Gruevski has adroitly used the issue to rally nationalism in support of the government. Meanwhile, the ethnic Albanian political parties have been co-opted by their share in the spoils of mis-governance, even though their people remain even more alienated and poorer than the rest of the population.

The divisions are deepening right across society. Three-quarters of ethnic Albanians still firmly believe in EU and NATO accession as the way to a better future, but by now over 62 percent of other Macedonians think badly of joining the EU. Three-quarters of the ruling party’s supporters see the name dispute with Greece as the key reason for Macedonia’s now bleak EU accession prospects; but only 20% of opposition supporters agree. The biggest divide is between rich and poor, especially along party lines. The poor are undoubtedly getting poorer: resources available to the poorest fifth of citizens fell by 38% between 2008 and 2012. But business profits have grown by almost two and a half times since the year 2000. Nearly 80% of all Macedonians believe it is unfair that employment in state institutions and general prosperity is based on political party membership.
The way forward: a unity government with EU and NATO support

Macedonia is once again becoming a security threat on the EU’s borders. But this time it’s different: a non-partisan civic movement has taken to the streets for the first time to change the country. There is a real opportunity to use this energy to build democracy and a market economy in this multi-ethnic state.

No party is doing well in Macedonia: the secret recordings have lost the government all credibility, but the public has little faith in the leaders of the opposition and ethnic Albanian parties either. The immediate solution lies in collective action first by all those who have created the problem.

Now that three of the prime minister’s key allies have tendered their resignations, Macedonia should turn again to the solution that averted the civil war in 2001: a unity government composed of the four main parties. To foster the necessary compromises and offer a fresh start. it would not include the current prime minister, public prosecutor or speaker of the parliament – but opposition parties must be involved in open and credible oversight of the intelligence agencies, and take responsibility for the discredited interior ministry.

The most promising scenario is a government of national unity that lasts for 12-18 months, to prepare the country for free and fair elections, and create an independent commission to investigate all the events since the opposition was violently ejected from the parliament in 2013. And it should agree on a common negotiating platform on the name dispute with Greece. Macedonia’s newly reinvigorated civil society should also contribute to the work of the parliamentary commissions and monitor the new government’s progress in restoring the accountability of public institutions. The country must avoid just replacing the driver in the seat of the captured state machinery, by increasing inclusion and pluralism in governance.

As so often in the Balkans, such a scenario will be impossible without EU and NATO assistance. The default position among EU foreign ministers is to expect sovereign countries to sort out their own political problems through democratic institutions. But after a decade of unconsolidated democracy and state capture, Macedonia does not possess those institutions. Therefore, other levers of influence are needed. NATO could offer a tangible incentive to all parties by offering a possibility to re-open membership talks. EU accession negotiations are far off because so much time has been lost on necessary reforms, but the enlargement process is vital to offer hope, especially to the ethnic Albanians, and guidance to reformers who are seeking to take back captured parts of the state. The support of EU institutions, member-states and banks is vital for the country’s macroeconomic stability. Neighbouring governments could also exert more pressure, as their own security is at stake. Bulgarian Prime Minister Borisov was the first to request Gruevski to step down.

The EU can no longer afford to indulge a model of governance in Macedonia that has been far more aggressive in its authoritarian zeal than nearby Montenegro or Turkey. The European People’s Party has a particular responsibility to get involved, having accepted and protected VMRO-DPMNE as a sister party for all these years. Now it must act to uphold the standards of democracy on which it was founded, by putting pressure on VMRO-DPMNE to relinquish its grip on power and join a unity government. The time to move is now, as the costs of inaction will continue to rise.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on May 22nd, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

Politics // The New York Times

Obama Set to Strengthen Federal Role in Clean Water Regulation.

By CORAL DAVENPORT, MAY 22, 2015

The Obama administration is expected in the coming days to announce a major clean water regulation that would restore the federal government’s authority to limit pollution in the nation’s rivers, lakes, streams and wetlands.

Environmentalists have praised the new rule, calling it an important step that would lead to significantly cleaner natural bodies of water and healthier drinking water.

But it has attracted fierce opposition from several business interests, including farmers, property developers, fertilizer and pesticide makers, oil and gas producers and a national association of golf course owners. Opponents contend that the rule would stifle economic growth and intrude on property owners’ rights.

Republicans in Congress point to the rule as another example of what they call executive overreach by the Obama administration. Already, they are advancing legislation on Capitol Hill meant to block or delay the rule.

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Related Coverage

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Critics Hear E.P.A.’s Voice in ‘Public Comments’ MAY 18, 2015

As head of Washington’s water department, George Hawkins, is on the scene every time a major sewer or water line breaks.
Toxic Waters: Saving U.S. Water and Sewer Systems Would Be CostlyMARCH 14, 2010

Toxic Waters: Clean Water Laws Are Neglected, at a Cost in SufferingSEPT. 12, 2009

The mouth of Avondale Creek in Alabama, into which a pipe maker dumped oil, lead and zinc. A court ruling made the waterway exempt from the Clean Water Act.

Toxic Waters: Rulings Restrict Clean Water Act, Hampering E.P.A.FEB. 28, 2010

The water system in Ramsey, N.J., has illegal concentrations of arsenic and the solvent tetrachloroethylene, both linked to cancer.

Millions in U.S. Drink Contaminated Water, Records Show, DEC. 7, 2009
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The announcement of the rule could come as soon as Friday. If not, it is likely to happen next week, people with knowledge of the plans said.

Photo – Gina McCarthy, the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, says a new clean water rule is intended “to protect critical streams and wetlands that are currently vulnerable to pollution and destruction.”

The water rule is part of a broader push by President Obama to use his executive authority to build a major environmental legacy, without requiring new legislation from the Republican-controlled Congress.

This summer, the Environmental Protection Agency is expected to release a final set of rules intended to combat climate change, by limiting greenhouse gas pollution from power plants. Mr. Obama is also expected to announce in the coming year that he will put vast swaths of public land off limits to energy exploration and other development.

“Water is the lifeblood of healthy people and healthy economies,” Gina McCarthy, the E.P.A.’s administrator, wrote in an April blog post promoting the water rule. “We have a duty to protect it. That’s why E.P.A. and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers are finalizing a Clean Water Rule later this spring to protect critical streams and wetlands that are currently vulnerable to pollution and destruction.”

But even as E.P.A. staff worked this month to finish the rule, the House passed a bill to block it. The Senate is moving forward with a bill that would require the agency to fundamentally revamp the rule.

“Under this outrageously broad new rule, Washington bureaucrats would now have a say in how farmers, and ranchers, and families use their own property,” said Senator John Barrasso, Republican of Wyoming and the chief author of the Senate bill.

“It would allow the Environmental Protection Agency to regulate private property just based on things like whether it’s used by animals or birds, or even insects,” he said.

“This rule,” he added, “is not designed to protect the traditional waters of the United States. It is designed to expand the power of Washington bureaucrats.”

The E.P.A. and the Army Corps of Engineers jointly proposed the rule, known as Waters of the U.S., last March. The agency has held more than 400 meetings about it with outside groups and read more than one million public comments as it wrote the final language.

The rule is being issued under the 1972 Clean Water Act, which gave the federal government broad authority to limit pollution in major water bodies, like Chesapeake Bay, the Mississippi River and Puget Sound, as well as streams and wetlands that drain into larger waters.

But two Supreme Court decisions related to clean water protection, in 2001 and in 2006, created legal confusion about whether the federal government had the authority to regulate the smaller streams and headwaters, and about other water sources such as wetlands.

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BUT E.P.A. officials are not completely satisfied by the projected draft of this new Obama directives!

E.P.A. officials say the new rule will clarify that authority, allowing the government to once again limit pollution in those smaller bodies of water — although it does not restore the full scope of regulatory authority granted by the 1972 law.

The E.P.A. also contends that the new rule will not give it the authority to regulate additional waters that had not been covered under the 1972 law. People familiar with the rule say it will apply to about 60 percent of the nation’s waters.

“Until now, major bodies of water were protected under the law,” said Elizabeth Ouzts, a spokeswoman for Environment America, an advocacy group. “But they can’t be fully protected unless the streams that flow into them are also protected.”

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The rule will also limit pollution in groundwater and other sources of drinking water. Polluted groundwater is now chemically treated before being used as drinking water.

“We could spend a lot of money to massively treat the water that we drink, but it makes a lot more sense to protect the source,” Ms. Ouzts said.

A coalition of industry groups, led by the American Farm Bureau Federation, has waged an aggressive campaign calling on the E.P.A. to withdraw or revamp the rule.

Farmers fear that the rule could impose major new costs and burdens, requiring them to pay fees for environmental assessments and to obtain permits just to till the soil near gullies, ditches or dry streambeds where water flows only when it rains. A permit is required for any activity, like farming or construction, that creates a discharge into a body of water covered under the Clean Water Act or affects the health of it, like filling in a wetland or blocking a stream.

“It’s going to cause a nightmare for farmers,” said Don Parrish, the senior director of congressional relations for the American Farm Bureau Federation.

“Our members own the majority of the landscape that’s going to be impacted by this,” he said. “It’s going to make their land, the most valuable thing they possess, less valuable. It could reduce the value of some farmland by as much as 40 percent. If you want to build a home, if you want to grow food, if you want a job to go with that clean water, you have to ask E.P.A. for it.”

The lobbying fight over the rule has also generated a public-relations battle over social media.

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The Deck is not a plain playing field:

In its protest of the rule, the American Farm Bureau Federation started a social media campaign, using the Twitter hashtag #DitchTheRule, to urge farmers and others to push the E.P.A. to abandon or revamp the rule. The E.P.A., in response, created a campaign with the hashtag #DitchTheMyth, urging people to speak out in favor of the rule. But some legal experts contend that campaign might have tested the limits of federal lobbying laws, which prohibit a government agency from engaging in grass-roots lobbying for proposed policies or legislation.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on May 5th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

John Oliver on this Sunday night’s edition of HBO’s “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver,” which has fast become must-see TV, the British host said: “This week has shone a serious light on the disparities in Baltimore between the community and the police force—disparities that were highlighted when six officers were arrested on charges in Gray’s death, and were then released on bail,” he said.

He threw to a news clip announcing that the six officers charged in Gray’s death had bail amounts ranging from $250,000-300,000.

“That sounds like a fair amount for such serious charges, but juxtapose that with the bail set for people involved in the protests, like this 18-year-old who helped smash in the windows of several cars, including a police car. How much was his bail?” asked Oliver.

The young man in question is Allan Bullock, who allegedly was captured on film bashing in the windows of an unmarked police car with a traffic cone. And his bail was set at $500,000—more than for any of the officers charged with Gray’s death.

“Five hundred thousand dollars for breaking car windows!” he said. “To put that in context, even Robert Durst had his bail set at just $300,000 after definitely not killing that guy in Galveston, Texas. That amount of money makes absolutely no sense! That kid’s crimes were misdemeanors, he turned himself in—in fact, the only explanation for his bail being set that high is that, just like Geraldo Rivera and that guy from CNN, judges in Baltimore can’t look at black people without seeing millionaire Russell Simmons.”

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on April 27th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

36 eye-opening facts about water.

from: Melissa Breyer (@MelissaBreyer)
Science / Clean Water at TreeHugger.com

March 19, 2015

World water day – water facts


In 1993, the United Nations General Assembly designated March 22 as the first World Water Day. And with good reason – without water, we’d be nothing. Just dust. Water is one of the most common substances on earth, and one of the most vital; it’s a tremendously valuable resource, yet one we squander and pollute prodigiously.

Water is deceptive. For while it pours freely from the heavens and seems to flow endlessly in rivers, it’s a finite resource; we only have what we have. And although there is about 332,500,000 cubic miles of it on earth – only one-hundredth of one percent of the world’s water is readily available for human use. We really need to learn how to show it some respect. Which is where World Water Day comes in.

Even though water deserves celebration every day, we’ll take this occasion to give a shout-out to this incredible compound that gives us life and sustains the planet around us. So with that in mind, consider the following facts – some wondrous, some disconcerting, all eye-opening:

1. The average human body is made of 50 to 65 percent water.

2. Newborn babies have even more, ringing in at 78 percent water.

3. A gallon of water weighs 8.34 pounds.

4. A cubic foot of water weighs 62.4 pounds.

5. An inch of water covering one acre (27,154 gallons) weighs 113 tons.

6. Water covers 70.9 percent of the planet’s surface.

7. Ninety-seven percent of the water on Earth is salt water; the water found in the Earth’s lakes, rivers, streams, ponds, swamps, etcetera accounts for only 0.3 percent of the world’s fresh water. The rest is trapped in glaciers or is in the ground.

8. There is more water in the atmosphere than in all of our rivers combined.

9. If all of the water vapor in our planet’s atmosphere fell as water at once and spread out evenly, it would only cover the globe with about an inch of water.

10. More than one-quarter of all bottled water comes from a municipal water supply – the same place that tap water comes from.

11. Approximately 400 billion gallons of water are used in the United States per day; nearly half of that is used for thermoelectric power generation.

12. In a year, the average American residence uses over 100,000 gallons.

13. Since the average faucet releases 2 gallons of water per minute, you can save up to four gallons of water every morning by turning off the tap while you brush your teeth.

14. A running toilet can waste up to 200 gallons of water each day.

15. At one drip per second, a faucet can leak 3,000 gallons in a year.

16. A bath uses up to 70 gallons of water; a five-minute shower uses 10 to 25 gallons.

17. The first water pipes in the U.S. were made from hollowed logs.

18. Leaks in the New York City water supply system account for 36 million gallons of wasted water per day.

19. There are around one million miles of water pipeline and aqueducts in the U.S. and Canada, enough to circle the globe 40 times.

20. 748 million people in the world do not have access to an improved source of drinking water

21. And 2.5 billion people do not have use of an improved sanitation facility.

22. Some 1.8 billion people worldwide drink water that is contaminated with feces.

23. The World Health Organization recommends 2 gallons per person daily to meet the requirements of most people under most conditions; and around 5 gallons per person daily to cover basic hygiene and food hygiene needs.

24. On average, an American resident uses about 100 gallons of water per day.

25. On average, a European resident uses about 50 gallons of water per day.

26. On average, a resident of sub-Saharan Africa uses 2 to 5 gallons of water per day.

27. It takes .26 gallons of water to irrigate one calorie of food.

28. (Yet it takes 26 gallons for one calorie of food when water is used inefficiently.)

29. It takes 2.6 gallons of water to make a sheet of paper.

30. It takes 6.3 gallons of water to make 17 ounces of plastic.

31. It takes 924 gallons of water to produce 2.2 pounds of rice.

32. It takes 2,641 gallons of water to make a pair of jeans.

33. It takes 3,962 gallons of water to produce 2.2 pounds of beef.

34. It takes 39,090 gallons more water to manufacture a new car.

35. In developing nations women and girls are primarily responsible for collecting water; on average, 25 percent of their day is spent on this task.

36. Collectively, South African women and children walk a daily distance equivalent to 16 trips to the moon and back to fetch water.

Sources: UN World Water Day; EPA Water Sense; EPA Water.

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More on World Water Day:
It’s World Water Day: 5 shocking facts about water scarcity
Dirty, unwashed jeans encouraged, says Levis to employees
Be a hero for World Water Day!
Happy World Water Day! 22 key stories for understanding water issues

Related on TreeHugger.com:
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Why is Bill Gates drinking poop-water? (video)

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on April 27th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

from: Melissa Breyer (@MelissaBreyer)
Science / Natural Sciences at TreeHuger.com website
April 22, 2015

12 really cool random things about planet Earth


Allow me to roll out a cliché and say that here at TreeHugger, every day is Earth Day. Tips on going green and sustainable design and treehugging in general are business as usual; our modus operandi 24/7. But who would we be to let such a momentous day as April 22 pass without some fanfare? So with that in mind, here’s some praise for the planet, glory for the globe, an all-around high-five highlighting some randomly remarkable features of this wild world we’re so lucky to call home.


1. Earth plays host to deadly, exploding lakes

Why should science fiction and horror movies have all the fun? Earth is pretty dramatic too. We’ve even got exploding lakes. In Cameroon and on the border of Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo there are three crater lakes – Nyos, Monoun and Kivu – which sit above volcanic earth. The magma below releases carbon dioxide into the lakes, and the gas can escape to form a limnic eruption, potentially killing everything nearby. Around Kivu Lake, geologists have found evidence of massive biological extinctions about every thousand years.

2. The planet is covered in stardust

Every year, 40,000 tons of cosmic dust falls upon our planet. It’s not something we notice, but eventually all that dust, which is made of oxygen, carbon, iron, nickel, and all the other elements, finds its way into our bodies. We are stardust.

3. You can’t keep a good planet still

While we may feel like we’re standing still, of course, we are not. We’re actually spinning wildly and flying through space! It’s a wonder life seems so calm. Depending on where you are, you could be spinning at over 1,000 miles per hour (though those on the North or South poles would be still). Meanwhile, we’re moving around the sun at a zippy 67,000 miles per hour. Whoosh.

4. It has some really cold spots

We’re talking really, really cold. A few hundred miles from the Arctic Circle is the town of Oymyakon, Russia, which in 1933 earned the title as the coldest place on Earth when the temperature dropped to -90 F. It is so cold here that people don’t turn their cars off and must heat the ground with a bonfire for days before in order to bury their dead. During the winter, the temperature averages -58 F.

5. And others that are as hot as Hades

On the other end of the mercury, Death Valley plays home to the hottest temperatures recorded: the hottest on the planet being 134 F on July 10, 1913. That was not a good week in the desert; temperatures reached 129 F or above on five consecutive days. More recently, the summer of 2001 saw 100 F for 154 consecutive days, while the summer of 1996 was bestowed with 105 days over 110 F and 40 days when the mercury reached 120 F.

6. The high highs are really high

At 29,028 feet above sea level, Mount Everest is the highest place on Earth when measured by sea level. But if you measure height based on the distance from the center of the planet, Mount Chimaborazo in the Andes Mountains in Ecuador takes the prize. Although Chimaborazo is about 10,000 feet shorter (relative to sea level) than Everest, this mountain is about 1.5 miles farther into space because of the equatorial bulge.

7. And the low down is deep

The lowest point on Earth is the Mariana Trench in the western Pacific Ocean. It reaches down about 36,200 feet, nearly 7 miles, below sea level.

8. The planet has rocks that scoot themselves

In a remote stretch of Death Valley, a lakebed known as Racetrack Play plays home to one of the natural world’s more compelling mysteries: Rocks that sail across the bed of the lake, propelled by nothing that anyone can see. It’s a puzzle that has long-stumped scientists, and has never actually ever been seen in action, save for the long meandering tracks left behind in the mud surface.

9. And dunes that sing

Around 30 places across the planet have sand dunes that sing and croak, creating low droning music that lands somewhere between chanting monks and a swarm of bees. From the Gobi Desert and Death Valley to the Sahara and Chilean desert, the source of the sounds has long remained a mystery, although there are a number of theories explaining the sonic phenomena, it remains a hotly debated topic.

10. The world below is a giant, mysterious thing

We think we’re so fancy with our terrestrial lives, but you should see what’s going on down in the coral reefs. It is there in which exists the most species per unit area of any of the planet’s ecosystems, even more than the rain forests. And while the reefs are comprised of tiny individual coral polyps, together they form the largest living structures on Earth, even visible from space.

11. There’s a sweet spot for lightning

Every night in northwestern Venezuela, where the Catatumbo River meets Lake Maracaibo, a thunderstorm occurs. And not just a passing show, but a storm that can last up to 10 hours and averaging 28 lightning strikes per minute. Known as Relámpago del Catatumbo (the Catatumbo Lightning) it can strike as many as 3,600 bolts in an hour. Every night!
12. And we don’t know the half of it
While oceans cover around 70 percent of the planet, we’ve only explored some 5 percent of them. In a similar vein, scientists estimate that there are anywhere between 5 million and 100 million species on Earth, but … we have identified only about 2 million of them. We think we know it all, but there is so much left to discover. What a wonderful world!

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Related on TreeHugger.com:
36 eye-opening facts about water
Learn the History of the World in 100 Objects
30 Fascinating Facts about the Boreal Forest

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